Perhaps no family has had a more long range influence on Langley than the six generations of Furmans who have lived here continuously since Frank Furman and his wife, Anna, arrived in 1898.
While the Hunzikers, Howards and McLeods were busy establishing stores, hotels and businesses in downtown Langley, Frank Fur-man, who came from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was equally busy establishing a thriving farm between Edgecliff Drive waterfront and the Brown’s Point (Sandy Point) Road. When they first arrived in 1898, Frank, Anna and their sons, George, Claude and Frank Jr., lived in a small cottage on their property while they were building a new and larger house. Harry and Hazel were born in the new dwelling.
Frank Furman was elected Langley’s first mayor after its incorporation in 1913. He also served the town and surrounding countryside as postmaster for several years. Furman street in Langley was named for him.
History-making in Langley was not reserved to the elders of the Furman family. As their children grew up some of their romances and marriages were history making in themselves.
An account of Claude Furman’s elopement was published in the South Whidbey Record in 1984 on the occasion of his sixty-seventh wedding anniversary. It follows:
It was a cold day in February, 1917 and the 16-year-old girl and almost 20-year-old man were in a strange city 80 miles from home. The brand new bridegroom looked questioningly at his bride of a few hours. “Well, honey, I guess it’s time for us to go home and face the music.’’ He was wondering if she was regretting their elopement now that the romantic excitement of outwitting their parents was over.
He had good reason to be uneasy. Their hasty marriage could well estrange them from both sets of parents. The Joseph Marshalls and the F. E. Furmans, who were neighbors on Edgecliff Drive in Langley, had a heated feud going over some sheep and the only thing they could agree upon was that their lovesick teenagers, Esther Marshall and Claude Furman, were both too young to marry, especially each other.
Claude had no regrets for himself. He knew that there would never be any girl for him but Esther and he hadn’t gone into this marriage irresponsibly. He had a good job with the Funk Mercantile company in Langley and he had spotted out a bungalow on Second Street with a cherry tree in the front yard. Furthermore, he would have waited until Esther was older if her parents hadn’t announced that he must take back the hope chest he had given her for Christmas and that he wasn’t to see her anymore because they were moving to Alberta, Canada. There was no way that he could let them take Esther so far away that he would never see her again and he knew that she felt the same way.
They had laid their plans carefully. First he had hired Phil Simon to stand by with a boat down at Brown’s Point in readiness to ferry them across to Everett as soon as Esther could elude her parents. He also had rented all the other available motor boats and had taken them out of circulation to circumvent any possible followers. Then he had taken back the hope chest, as he had been ordered, but not until Esther had secretly loaded it with her clothes. Finally Esther, under pretext of visiting a friend, was able to join him at the dock and they were off on their big adventure. From Everett they had taken the train to Bellingham where they were married.
At last they were man and wife but now, as he looked at his bride on that cold February day up in Bellingham, Claude Furman wondered if he had done the right thing in precipitating this hasty marriage. After all Esther was only 16 and had never been away from her parents before. As if reading his thoughts she placed a trusting hand on his shoulder and whispered, “No matter what happens we have each other now and that’s all that matters.” Unafraid and unrepentant the young couple returned home to face their irate parents. When Claude confronted Frank and Anna Furman with the girl he had married against their wishes they recognized that although the newlyweds were young and vulnerable they also were deeply in love and determined that nothing should part them so the 16 year old bride was accepted into the Furman family for keeps. Claude and Esther will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in February, 1987, proving that parents don’t always know best.
This was the second time within a year that a teen-age daughter-in-law had been added to the Frank Furman family. On May 5,1916 when Frank Furman Jr., and 18 year old Carrie Bradshaw, cousin of Effie Simonson and daughter of the George Bradshaw’s who had come to the Maxwelton area in 1903, applied for their marriage license in Everett the clerk refused to grant it. He insisted that Carrie was under the legal marrying age and she had to go home and bring her father to establish that all was legal and approved.
Frank Jr., and Carrie hadn’t eloped but nevertheless their return home after their marriage caused a considerable amount of excitement in Langley and was not soon forgotten. The con-tingent of soldiers from Fort Casey, who were stationed in Langley due to our impending entrance into World War II, staged a charivari for the newlyweds at the dance pavilion on the Langley dock and it involved most of the townspeople and the nearby community as well.
From 1917 to 1922 all was quiet, matrimonially speaking, in the Frank Furman family. Early in 1921 17-year-old daughter, Hazel, met Earl Yoder at a Methodist Young People’s party. By June, 1922 romance between the young daughter of the Furmans and the young son of Abner and Anna Yoder who had settled in the Bayview area in 1918, had ripened into marriage shortly before the bride’s 19th birthday.
Wedding bells rang again in the Furman Family in 1929, this time in double tempo. The two remaining unwed sons, George and Harry, took as brides two sisters, Ruth and Ruby Met-calf, daughters of Edward and Annie Cunningham Metcalf of Bayview. (Anne was the daughter of Paul and Mary Cunningham.)
Unlikely as it seems, a toothache was the springboard from which those romances were launched. Harry was returning home on the ferry from a painful trip to an Everett dentist and was holding his hand over an extremely sore mouth while feeling quite sorry for himself. He happened to look across the aisle from where he sat and saw a pretty girl observing him with sympathy. For Harry it was love at first sight but she debarked and disappeared before he could figure out a way to meet her. A short time later at a Christmas program in the Langley gymnasium, fate smiled on him. Harry and brother George found themselves seated directly behind the girl of Harry’s dreams, 17-year- old Ruby Metcalf. She was attending the program with her older sister, Ruth. That was the beginning of a double courtship between Harry and Ruby and George and Ruth. Courtship culminated in a double wedding April 21,1929 at the Metcalf home with Rev. Robertson of the Langley Methodist church officiating. Once again the Furmans welcomed a teen-age bride into the family. Their other new daughter-in-law had passed the ripe age of 20 prior to her marriage.
With all of their children married and 30 years of community service behind them, Frank Sr., and Anna settled into a quieter routine in their home on Edgecliff Drive where they lived until their deaths, Frank in 1948 and Anna in 1952. All of their children and their families eventually settled on, or adjacent to, portions of the original farm.
Frank Jr. and wife Carrie, built their home on Decker Street where they raised two children, Paul and Winona, both of whom reside in South Whidbey. Paul married Alice Steele and they live on South Bayview Road. Winona lives on Hegness Road, Clinton. Her husband, Harley Shults, died in 1985. Carrie and Frank Jr., had five grandchildren, 14 great grand-children and four great great-grandchildren, many of whom live in South Whidbey. Frank died in 1974 shortly after he and Carrie celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary. Carrie, who was bom in Missouri in 1897, six years before her parents moved to South Whidbey, is still living in her home on Decker Street in 1986 and is 89 years young.
Prior to his marriage in 1929 Harry Furman had built a house and started a two acre chicken farm on property fronting Furman Road. Ruby, his 17-year-old bride, became the instant foster mother of several hundred chirping baby chicks when she arrived at her new home on her honeymoon. That honeymoon lasted 21 years until Harry’s death in 1950. It was a common sight for neighbors to see Ruby and Harry strolling hand in hand on the beach of an evening after their chores were done. They had three children, Vera, Lloyd and Glen, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. In 1986 Ruby is still living next door to the original house on Edgecliff Drive which burned.
George and Ruth Furman settled originally on a portion of the Furman property facing the Sandy Point Road and lived there several years before moving off the island. They became the parents of eight daughters. Both George and Ruth are now deceased.
Earl and Hazel Furman Yoder built a home on Furman Street and lived there during the 57 years of their marriage. Earl died in 1979. They had three children, Marian who lives in Alaska, Clarence who was killed in an accident in Clin-ton in 1974, and Alice whose husband is William Pelky, a grandson of the pioneer Dassel family of Double Bluff. Since her husband’s death Hazel has lived with the Pelkeys on Lancaster Road. She has nine grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and one great great-grandchild, several of whom live in South Whidbey. Alice and William Pelky attracted state-wide attention in June, 1984 when they won the state Lucky Bonanza Lottery of $50,000.
Claude and Esther Furman, who created an uproar with their teenage elopement in 1917, are continuing their colorful career as this is written in 1986 and looking forward to their 70th anniversary in the coming February. Claude worked as a rural mail carrier out of Langley post office for 30 years. In the 1950s they built a house on Edgecliff Drive abutting the original Furman Farm. The property is now owned by Winston and Maybelle Hotell. Claude and Esther have retired to a smaller home in Freeland.
Both have been active in community affairs over the years. In August, 1985 they shared honors with Leon and Marie Burley as “South Whidbey’s Pioneer Sweethearts” in the prize-winning entry of South Whidbey Historical So-ciety in Island County Fair parade. Their daughter, Noreen is the wife of Bob Warnock who is continuing the Furman family tradition of postal service. He is Clinton’s postmaster. Noreen was honored as high school Homecoming Princess in 1958. Her daughter, Lori, (now Mrs. Albert Gabelein), was Homecoming Queen in 1978. Claude and Esther’s daughter, Anna Mae, married Elvin Haralson, and their daughter, Judy (now Mrs. Larry Leidhohn) was Homecoming Queen in 1965. Claude and Esther’s third daughter, Claudine Everett, lives in New Hamp-shire. Their son, Alfred Furman, lives in Langley. Claude and Esther have 14 grand-children, 38 great grandchildren and four great great-grandchildren. They can boast six generations of Furmans who have lived continuously on South Whidbey, starting with Frank Furman Sr., in 1898.