Mary Josephine Tuomala Hilstrom (1863-1929) was the mother in law of Mr. Bates. She was also the maid for the Brown family for several years. Below is a biography of Mary written by her granddaughter, Mary Ellen Bates.
In 1946 my father, William (Billy) Charles Bates, and his partner, L. Milton Burnett, purchased the house, known as the Brown House at 400 W. 11th Street, Vancouver, and relocated their law practice there. For several years the firm had maintained offices in the Ford Building in downtown Vancouver, but when the Brown House was available for sale they considered buying it: first and for sentimental reasons, it was the first house in which Fatherâ€™s mother in law had lived when she arrived in Vancouver and second, it was within easy walking distance to the Clark County Courthouse.
When Father and Uncle Milton first met, Father was sixteen and Uncle Milton a year younger. Father was then living with his grandmother in a house on the corner of 24th and Franklin Streets and Uncle Miltonâ€™s family lived just to the west. They immediately became best friends, went to Franklin and Vancouver high schools together and a year after graduation entered the University of Washington Law School where they roomed together and where Father was a member of Acacia Fraternity. A year elapsed after high school because father spent a year with his parents in Colon, Panama, where he was employed as a clerk with a steam shovel company. Grandfather Bates was a steam shovel operator/gang supervisor and construction engineer on Panama Canalâ€™s Culebra Cut.
In 1910 Father and Uncle Milton began practicing law together and did so for over 50 years. They were known not only as practicing attorneys but Father was also a long-time city attorney and Uncle Milton was head of the school board and prosecuting attorney. They were known throughout the state as father was, in 1932, Grand Master of Mason and Uncle Milton was head of the Knights of Pythias.
But I digress. Early on (the mid-1910â€™s?) Judge Miller urged father to meet a sorority sister of his daughter, Marjory, an Alpha Omicron Pi at the University of Washington. The friend was Theresa (Tess) A. Hilstrom who was also from Vancouver and was the oldest child of Mary Josephine Tuomala Hilstrom.
Mary Josephine was the only daughter of the owner of a stagecoach stop and inn located midway between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. To keep the innâ€™s dining facility in meat her father traveled north during the winter each year to buy reindeer meat from the nomadic Laplanders (now known as Saami or Sami as the word Lapp is considered most derogatory). During one trip he noticed the daughter of the chief of a nomadic tribe and asked for her hand in marriage; her father said that if Mr. Tuomela felt the same way the next trip he would consider giving his consent. The following winter he did; my great-great grandfather kept his word and my great grandfather and great grandmother returned to the stagecoach inn where they became most successful financially.
In 1881 Mr. Tuomala arranged passage on a ship sailing to New York; he took with him his three sons and Mary Josephine. His wife refused to accompany them, as she was certain that the business could not run without her, which it probably couldnâ€™t.
Mary Josephine was very anxious to see the Pacific Ocean and asked her father for permission to make the trip to Astoria. He gave her more than sufficient funds to travel to the west coast and return to Chicago where he was staying with his sister. So alone, at the age of eighteen, she made her way to the Pacific Ocean. On the boat trip east on the Columbia River she stopped at Vancouver and telegraphed her father that she was staying there. Her father wired back telling her that when she was ready to return to Finland he would gladly send her the money for the return trip. She did not take him up on his offer and, although her family was close knit, she remained in Vancouver and never saw any of her relatives again.
She was fortunate. Although she spoke no English, Mary met Mrs. Brown, the wife of a local banker, who hired her to tend her children and who taught her English so well that Mary had only a slight accent and also had more than acceptable penmanship. It was while she was with the Brownâ€™s that Mary met her husband, Peter Olav Hilstrom. He had emigrated from a poverty â€“stricken company-owned fishing village on the west coast of Sweden, had gandy danced (laying railroad tracks) across much of the United States and from his meager earnings has purchased a small farm in Hockinson, WA, just across the river from China Ditch. Along with farming his supplied firewood to Vancouver Barracks and, among others, to the Browns.
After their marriage Grandfather and Grandmother Hilstrom farmed for several years but education for their children was extremely limited and as soon as their children outgrew the one-room schoolhouse they moved to 714 West 9th Street in Vancouver. Grandfather briefly owned a furniture store/funeral parlor with Uncle Miltonâ€™s father and later was the first game warden in the local area. When he was at Salmon Creek and preparing to go home he mistakenly put the car in reverse, backed into Salmon Creek, was trapped inside his vehicle and drowned.
Grandmother Hilstrom was then a widow with six children. Despite financial hardship she urged her children on to education and success. My mother, Tess, graduated Phi beta Kappa from the University of Washington; Mother and Mabel were teachers; George was an accountant for Hunt Packing Company; John was a vice-president of California Packing Company; Stan became west coast district manager for Western Union.
While Mother was at University she and Father carried an on-again-off-again friendship. But when mother returned to Vancouver and became principal of the Sarah School (one of the other teachers was Miss Eva Santee who later was the Vancouver Public Library librarian), they became engaged. Father became a regular at Grandmother Hilstromâ€™s Sunday supper; on 25 October 1919 she asked Father when he and mother going to marryâ€¦at lastâ€¦to marry; he said Mother wouldnâ€™t tell him when! Grandmother then told Father that he was not welcome at Sunday supper again until they were married. One week later, on Saturday, 1 November 1919 they were married and Sunday supper attendance resumed.
The lives of the Bates, Burnetts and Hilstroms were intertwined so when the Brown House was for sale Father wanted to but it and Uncle Milton acquiesced. The structure itself was in poor shape but repairs were made and the firm of Bates and Burnett practiced law there for many years.
I know that Grandmother Hilstrom would have been very pleased that Father and Uncle Milton bought and practiced law in the Brown House. Grandmother had a strong will and determination; she loved my father as a son and was very fond of Uncle Milton. Mary Josephine was not a beauty but her inner strength coupled with her firm but gentle nature shone through and she was much admired and loved.