Teachers! "We would remind all interested, that there is to be a meeting this evening at 7 1/2 o'clock at the vestry of Rev. Mr. Hinckley's Church, or consultation in relation to the application for teachers in Washington Territory."
- "Lowell Daily Courier," Tuesday, January 26, 1864
"Mr. Mercer of Washington Territory gave his promised address last evening to a fair audience in Rev. Mr. Hinckley's vestry. His account of this young and rising territory, scarcely in its teens, but full of ample resources, only awaiting development, was listened to with evident interest. Mr. M. has resided some three years on the border of Puget’s Sound . . . Government has made liberal provision for educational purposes by grants of land, and considerable progress has been made, but there is a great want of teachers, and it is Mr. Mercer’s purpose about the middle of February to return with a company of recruits for this service, promising remunerative employment immediately on their arrival. Persons who are accepted will be required to pay their passage to San Francisco only. Beyond that point Mr. M. will be responsible for expenses. Several young ladies in Groton are already enrolled for this enterprise, and it is reported that some in this city are favorably disposed."
- "Lowell Daily Courier," Tuesday, January 27, 1864
Asa Mercer University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections #UW3388 Handwritten on verso: "Asa Mercer, ca. 1875. Elected the first president of the University of Washington in Seattle in 1864. He was responsible for a plan to bring the Mercer Girls to Washington Territory in 1864 from Lowell Mass."
"TEACHERS WANTED. Mr. Mercer, of Seattle, Washington Territory, has been in our city today, almost wholly, we believe, for the purpose of procuring female teachers to go to Washington Territory."
-"Lowell Daily Courier," Saturday, January 23, 1864
Asa Shinn Mercer addressed the group assembled in the Mechanic’s Hall at Lowell, Massachusetts, one early spring evening in 1864. He hoped to entice the attendees to the Washington territories. His selling points were the beauty of the barely settled towns along the water’s edge and the high wages a young lady could earn teaching school or music. He made no mention of the possibility of marriage, only the promise of wealth. His appeal to the pocket book must have been attractive, with the impact the civil war was having in the community at the time. Without cotton coming from the south, the town’s primary means of subsistence, its mills and factories, were suffering.  The opportunity was carefully considered and subsequently accepted by ten young ladies who ranged in age from fifteen to twenty-five. These well-educated young women from respected families set off for adventure promised with their parents' blessings. Asa Mercer's first trip from Lowell, Massachusetts, began by sailing from New York in March of 1864. Bound for Colon, Panama, he and the young ladies boarded a train at the Isthmus. Once on the Pacific side, they were able to continue their journey to San Francisco by way of another steamship. On April 19, 1864, they arrived in San Francisco where the women boarded a smaller vessel for the final leg of their journey to Seattle. The women arrived in Seattle in May of 1864, where they received a warm welcome, creating friendships that helped ease the separation from their families.
What follows, are some of these young ladies' stories.
Annie May Adams, sixteen, from Boston, had been placed “in charge of the captain” with the intention of residing in San Francisco. After being persuaded to make the rest of the journey to Seattle, she married Robert G. Head, a printer, and lived in Olympia.
Antoinette J. Baker, twenty-five, married Mr. Huntington of Monticello. She was one of the first teachers in “Territorial Washington.”
Sarah Cheney, twenty-two, taught in Port Townsend. She died a few years after marrying Captain Charles Willoughby.
Aurelia Coffin was twenty years old when she taught in Port Ludlow. She married Mr. Hinckley and move to California.
Flora Augusta Pearson Engle came west with her mother, Susan Brown Pearson, and her brother, Daniel Olando Pearson, on Asa Mercer's second trip west. They left New York in January 1866, part of the second group of young ladies brought by Mercer, called the "Mercer Belles." Of 700 original passengers who sailed "around the horn," only 34 arrived in Port Townsend in May 28, 1864. Flora married William Ballinger Engle on May 8, 1876. Engle laid out a Donation Claim (Oregon Territory) and registered it on November 20, 1852. The Washington Historical Quarterly, published by the Washington University State Historical Society, featured an article written by Flora Augusta Pearson Engle in October 1915 in which she recounts her trip entitled "The Story of the Mercer Expeditions."
Daniel Pearson, forty-six, was the father of Josie, Georgia, and Flora Pearson. He was married to Susan B. Brown of Lowell December 25, 1841.  He was an overseer at the cotton mills, but had been unemployed due to the war and poor health. He brought an assortment of women’s shoes with him on his journey from Lowell and made a living selling them until his appointment at Admiralty Head as light keeper.  He faithfully held the position for thirteen years. 
Sarah Jane Gallagher - PH Coll 273, Photographer: Arthur Churchill Warner. Description: Miss Sarah J. Gallagher, probably Seattle, n.d. Notes handwritten on verso: Mrs. Reynolds. This is the picture of Sarah J. Gallagher, one of the Mercer Girl. . . University of Washington Libraries Special Collections, Warner 3165
Miss Sara Jane Gallagher taught school and music in Seattle. She was nineteen when she arrived.  She married Thomas Russell and had a son.
Ann M. Murphy may have stayed in San Francisco after only a short stay in Seattle.
Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ordway, one of the first group of eleven "Mercer Girls," was the oldest, born on July 4, 1828. Lizzie had a mind of her own and is one of the best remembered of the girls for her vivid character. After arriving in Seattle from East in the mid-1860's, Lizzie and some of the other girls found that "Seattle families were willing to provide them with lodging." . Henry and Sarah Yesler were one of those families, and Lizzie stayed at their home until she filled a teaching position
at a school on Whidby Island in August after the position was made vacant by the death of another of the Mercer Girls, Josie Pearson. . Lizzie was a "formidable force in public education in Washington Territory. She taught in Coupeville, Port Madison, Seattle, Port Gamble and Port Blakely."  In 1870 she opened Central School, the first constructed by the Seattle District. At first she was the only teacher and was quite surprised on opening day at the sight of over one hundred eager children. Ordway explained that she "had to send the younger ones home to ripen a little," and convinced the school board to add a second teacher.  In 1871, Lizzie joined forces with Susan B. Anthony during her western speaking tour in San Francisco. The two later formed a Female Suffrage Society and presented women's suffrage issues to the State House of Representatives in Olympia.  Lizzie taught for a time in San Francisco at a young ladies' seminary. In 1874 she returned to the Northwest aboard the ship Wildwood after a brief return to her family in Lowell. In 1881 she became the superintendent of Kitsap County schools and was "a successful and strict disciplinarian."  An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's editorial column opposing Lizzie's election stated "It may be a good joke to put a woman in nomination, but I do not regard the office of school superintendent of so little importance as to vote for a woman at the polls."  After serving her term as superintendent, Lizzie went on to examine and certify teachers in her role as a member of the County Education Board.  Lizzie Ordway died in September of 1897 and was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle. Since then, a monument headstone has been placed on her grave and a school on Bainbridge Island has been named for Lizzie. 
Georgianna “Georgia” Pearson, at fifteen, was the youngest of the Pearson girls. She made the first trip with Asa Mercer. She taught at the Smith Prairie School for a term before being “appointed assistant light keeper at Admiralty Head.”  She married Charles Townsend Terry, an early settler. 
Josephine “Josie” Pearson was the oldest of the four living children (nineteen at the time of the voyage); an older sister and a younger brother died as young children, prior to school age. Josie became a teacher in Coupeville, Washington, and unfortunately died, possibly from heart problems, six months after her arrival in 1864. She was only twenty years old at the time of her death. She taught music and school "near the site of the present Coupeville High School." 
Miss Catherine (Kate) Stevens was the twenty-eight year old cousin of Kate Stickney. They were not from Lowell, but the neighboring town of Pepperell, New Hampshire. She married Captain Henry Stevens, who was a customs inspector, and they moved to Victoria, B.C., after living for a few years in Port Townsend.
In 1858, Miss Catherine Adams married Alvah Stickney in Townsend, Massachusetts. (Peri Muhich's extensive research has determined that Catherine Adams remarried after divorcing Alvah Stickney in 1862. After her arrival in Seattle in May of 1864, Catherine married, on July 20, 1864, Walter Graham, a widower.) 
Mercer's Second Expedition
Flora Engle recounts the story of Mercer’s second larger expedition from her own memory as one of his second group. As a young woman of fifteen, she made the same journey her older sisters and father made scarcely one year earlier. Her mother, Susan Pearson, and her older brother accompanied her. From Flora’s retelling, we learn that Asa’s second venture had an entirely different spin; one which he hoped might be underwritten by the government: marketing the importance of “marriageable widows and orphans of the civil war” as a way to furnish a commodity to unmarried men of the territories. On the morning he was to present his plan to Abraham Lincoln, he learned that his longtime friend had been assassinated at the Ford theater the evening before.  Mercer planned to charge his passengers a fee, collecting $300 from presumably happy husbands later. After six months of frustration and difficulties caused by the likes of the New York Times article, which “blasted Mercer for trying to lure women to Seattle for immoral purposes,” he finally set sail once again. In January of 1866, the steamer Continental left New York with Asa Mercer heavily in debt, and according to Flora Pearson, rumored to have every inclination to slip off in the night, leaving his passengers high and dry. He brought forty single women on board a steamer retired from transport after the war instead of the three hundred he had hoped to have with him. As it was, the Continental was hardly a luxury vessel. Chaos ensued; food was meager, making the lives of the one hundred passengers a three month long ordeal. The Continental may have been commanded by Captain Windsor, but in reality, it was the two sisters of the ship’s owner who were in charge. The journey was relatively incident free aside from the two births, one death, and a couple of accidents. Flora adds that the romances and a wedding or two piqued the interest of the passengers while at sea.
The Continental arrived in San Francisco on the first of May. By the 8th, its passengers had boarded the brig, Sheet Anchor, bound for Seattle. Captain Pike was far more accommodating; the last lap of the journey was much more pleasant. After four months and a week, the group was greeted by Indians in canoes at Cape Flattery and finally landed a short time later at Admiralty Head. 
Flora, assistant to the light house keeper, married Mr. William B. Engle and lived on a farm on Whidbey Island until 1907.
The second list of passengers included: Ida Barlow, Nina Manning, Annie Stevens, Flora Pearson, Clara Lord, the widows: Mrs. Grinnold, Mrs. Horton, Mrs. Wakeman, Mrs. Chase, Mrs. Osborn, and Mrs. Parker. Sarah Robinson, Anna Peebles, Sarah Davidson, L. Berry, H. Stewart, M. Kenny, Mary Jane Smith, Mary Jane Griffin, Annie Conner, Carrie and E. Bacon, Ann Stephens who married Asa Mercer were also amongst those who made the second journey.  This group met with a crowd of three hundred Seattleites where there were nine men to every woman. Susan Paynter, in an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer years ago, quotes Ida Barlow, one of the passengers, description of their arrival from her diary:
“The harbor was full when we arrived; a nice young man came along side to help me off the ship and carried my things to the Occidental Hotel, the only hotel in town. It was that same young man that I married that same year in that same hotel. The whole town came and the Indians peered through the windows wondering why everybody was making such a fuss over just a squaw.” 
Ida Barlow came to teach, but she had to open a school in order to do so. She married Mr. Pinkham. According to Susan Paynter in an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer Northwest Today (November 30, 1969), Ida’s granddaughter, Mrs. Jerry Warren, remembers stories that her grandmother’s washerwoman was Angelina, Chief Seattle’s daughter or granddaughter.  She grew up hearing about Indians who live in what are now outlying areas around Seattle. Ida was a linguist and like all the Mercer girls she made an important contribution to Seattle’s historical past.
1. Engle, Flora P., “The Story of the Mercer Expeditions,” The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI. NO. 4, October, 1915.
3. Lowell Marriages, p. 148, http://www.americanancestors.org 5/23/2012
4. Seattle at 150: Ordway, the Unwed 'Mercer Girl,' was Still Well-Loved. By James R. Warren, SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER, Tuesday, October 16, 2001.
5. Engle, Flora P., “The Story of the Mercer Expeditions,” The Washington
Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI. NO. 4, October, 1915.
6. Lowell Births, p. 151, http://www.americanancestors.org 5/23/2012
7. Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Peri Muhich. All rights reserved: 'They Call Them the "Mercer Girls" Washington Territory's Cargo of Brides'. Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ordway http://perim.tripod.com/Brides/Ordway.html
8. Seattle at 150: Ordway, the Unwed 'Mercer Girl,' was Still Well-Loved. By James R. Warren, SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER Tuesday, October 16, 2001.
9. Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Peri Muhich. All rights reserved: 'They Call Them the "Mercer Girls" Washington Territory's Cargo of Brides'. Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ordway http://perim.tripod.com/Brides/Ordway.html
10. Seattle at 150: Ordway, the Unwed 'Mercer Girl,' was Still Well-Loved. By James R. Warren, SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER, Tuesday, October 16, 2001.
11. Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Peri Muhich. All rights reserved: 'They Call Them the "Mercer Girls" Washington Territory's Cargo of Brides.' Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ordway http://perim.tripod.com/Brides/Ordway.html
14. Engle, Flora P., “The Story of the Mercer Expeditions,” The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI. NO. 4, October, 1915.
15. Engle, Flora P., “The Story of the Mercer Expeditions,” The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI. NO. 4, October, 1915.
16. Paynter, Susan, “The Truth About the Mercer Girls,” Seattle Post
Intelligencer, Northwest Today, Sunday, Nov. 30, 1969.
16. Engle, Flora P., “The Story of the Mercer Expeditions,” The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI. NO. 4, October, 1915.
18. Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Peri Muhich. All rights reserved: 'They Call Them the "Mercer Girls" Washington Territory's Cargo of Brides.' Katherine Adams Stickney http://perim.tripod.com/Brides/Ordway.html
19. Engle, Flora P., “The Story of the Mercer Expeditions,” The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI. NO. 4, October, 1915.
20. Paynter, Susan, “The Truth About the Mercer Girls,” Seattle Post
Intelligencer, Northwest Today, Sunday, November 30, 1969.
22. Engle, Flora P., “The Story of the Mercer Expeditions,” The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI. NO. 4, October, 1915.
23. Paynter, Susan, “The Truth About the Mercer Girls,” Seattle
Post Intelligencer, Northwest Today, Sunday, Nov. 30, 1969
25. Ibid. (The author, Susan Paynter, married a Mercer girl descendant, John Edward Engstrom. His mother was Flora Elizabeth
Engle Englestrom, granddaughter of Mercer Girl Flora Augusta Pearson Engle.)
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