Tireless Agnes Lewis was mother of Scotts Valley

By Marion Dale Pokriots

When Agnes Lewis moved to Scotts Valley in 1956, she could hardly have guessed the part she would later play in the community's history.

Born Agnes Knox, on December 9, 1913, to William and Lela Albert Knox, Scotts Valley's 'first lady' was a native of San Francisco. When a young woman, she moved to New York City to become a professional dancer. She appeared for some time in a touring dance troupe before her marriage to engineer, Elmer Lewis, and the birth of their two children, Malcom and Laura.

Always interested in her children's education, she served as president of the Scotts Valley PTA in 1959, and as PTA parliamentarian in 1960. While she worked with the PTA, a Santa Cruz Sentinel article in September 1960 caught her attention. It mentioned that a cemetery had been proposed for a level grassy location on the east side of Highway 17 in Scotts Valley.

Agnes Lewis Agnes recalled that before progress arrived, in the form of a freeway that bisected the Scotts Valley community, the eastern section of the valley had been noted for its dairy barns and grazing cattle. Barns and cows had been eliminated and tourist related businesses along the old three-lane Los Gatos Highway were left high and dry. The community was in a vulnerable position.

The thoughtlessness of the cemetery advocate, with no consideration for the sensitivities of the Scotts Valley residents, created the turning point which eventually led to the incorporation of a new city.

Agnes, with her 'lieutenant' and good friend Margaret Wiens, and another irate citizen called a special meeting, at which the funeral director was asked to outline the project before 20 or so protestors.

A long struggle ensued, led by Agnes and Margaret Wiens. The Scotts Valley Property Owners Association was created in December 1960, with Agnes as president, and various subcommittees were formed.

The cemetery fight continued. The City of Santa Cruz annexed Skypark Airport and there was talk about a truck-loading depot for the west side of Highway 17. Concerned residents quickly proposed the incorporation of Scotts Valley. Harry Wiens was chosen to head the incorporation committee.

Agnes, Margaret and many others spent countless hours at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse pouring over records to find names of property owners in the proposed new city. This was essential before boundaries could be set and public hearings could be completed.

The community voted on the issue of incorporation in 1964. Incorporation won by 21 votes and that margin was lowered to 10 by challenges. Two years later, a state district court of appeals finally upheld a local Superior Court decision and the election results were confirmed.

Although ecstatic over the victory, Agnes was not one to rest. She had a new city to help organize. She acted as the City's appointed treasurer and served as secretary on the Scotts Valley Water District Board. She was appointed to the Civic Center Building Committee, which helped to design the civic center around the Scott House. She also participated in the formation of the City's first park and the Scotts Valley Music Association.

With her background in dance and her interest in history, she was instrumental in producing the Scotts Valley Cavalcade, an outdoor action-packed extravaganza which re-created the history of Santa Cruz County and Scotts Valley through song, dance and dramatic episodes. She worked diligently to preserve the Scott House and the Tree Circus. In May 1977, she was honored by the Santa Cruz County Society for Historical Preservation, Inc. for her role in founding the Scotts Valley Historical Society, spearheading the acquisition of the Scott House, and initiating the Bicentennial Cavalcade.

Agnes Lewis' title "Mrs. Scotts Valley" was well deserved. She was selected Scotts Valley's "Citizen of the Year" in 1973. Agnes died in 1979. A long-time valley resident remembers her as "a friendly, kind, good- hearted, clever, gentle, very intelligent person - and always a Lady."