Monday, April 28, 2008

My Town Monday - Seattle, WA

Early history of Seattle

What is now Seattle has been inhabited since the end of the last glacial period (c. 8,000 B.C.—10,000 years ago). Archaeological excavations at West Point in Discovery Park, Magnolia, confirm that the Seattle area has been inhabited by humans definitively for at least 4,000 years. Tohl-AHL-too ("herring house") and later hah-AH-poos ("where there are horse clams") at the mouth of the Duwamish River in what is now the Industrial District has been inhabited since the 6th century BC. By the time the first European settlers arrived in the area, the Dkhw'Duw'Absh and Xachua'Bsh people (now called the Duwamish Tribe) occupied at least seventeen villages in the areas around Elliott Bay.

The first Europeans to attempt settlement in the area were the Collins Party, who filed legal claim to land at the mouth of the Duwamish River on September 14, 1851. Thirteen days later, members of the Collins Party were on the way to their claim when they passed the scouts of the group of settlers that would eventually found Seattle, the Denny Party. The scouts for the Denny Party, Terry Lee, David Denny, and John Low, would lay claim to land on Alki Point on September 28, 1851, with Terry Low returning to Portland, Oregon carrying a message from David Denny telling his brother, Arthur Denny, to "Come at once." Following the instructions of David Denny, the rest of the Denny Party set sail from Portland and landed on Alki during a rainstorm on November 13, 1851. The landing party's first sight of their new homestead was the roofless cabin that David had been unable to complete because of a fever.

After spending a winter of frequent rainstorms and high winds on Alki Point, most of the Denny Party moved across Elliott Bay and settled on land where present day Pioneer Square is located and established the village of "Dewamps" or "Duwamps." The only members of the party that did not migrate to the eastern shore of Elliott Bay were Charles Terry and John Low, who remained at the original landing location and established a village they initially called "New York," after Terry's hometown, until April 1853 when they renamed it "Alki," a Chinook word meaning, roughly, by and by or someday. The villages of New York-Alki and Duwamps would compete for dominance in the area for the next few years, but in time Alki was abandoned and its residents moved across the bay to join the rest of the settlers.

When Henry Yesler brought the first steam sawmill to the region, he chose a location on the waterfront where Maynard and Denny's plats met. Thereafter Seattle would dominate the lumber industry.

Henry Yesler's house in the 1870's. Notice the elevated water pipes.

Seattle in its early decades relied on the timber industry, shipping logs (and, later, milled timber) to San Francisco. A climax forest of trees up to 1,000–2,000 years old and towering as high as nearly 400 ft (100 m) covered much of what is now Seattle. Today, none of that size remain anywhere in the world.

The logging town developed rapidly over decades into a small city. Despite being officially founded by the Methodists of the Denny Party, Seattle quickly developed a reputation as a wide-open town, a haven for prostitution, liquor, and gambling. Some attribute this, at least in part, to Maynard.

When Charlie Terry sold out Alki (which, after his departure barely held on as a settlement), he moved to Seattle and began acquiring land. He either owned or partially owned Seattle's first timber ships. He eventually gave a land grant to the University of the Territory of Washington (later University of Washington), and was instrumental in the politics to establish an urban infrastructure.

Real estate records show that nearly all of the city's first 60 businesses were on, or immediately adjacent to, Maynard's plat.

All of this occurred against a background of sometimes rocky relations with the local Native American population, including a nominally pitched battle January 25, 1856.

David Swinson ("Doc") Maynard, one of the village's founders, was the primary advocate for renaming the village to "Seattle" after Chief Sealth (si'áb Si'ahl) of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. Doc Maynard's advocacy bore fruit, because when the first plats for village were filed on May 23, 1853, it was for the Town of Seattle. In 1855, nominal legal land settlements were established. Seattle was incorporated as a town 14 January 1865. That charter was voided 18 January 1867, in response to unrest. Seattle was re-incorporated 2 December 1869. At the times of incorporations, the population was approximately 350 and 1,000, respectively.

Chief Sealth

My Town Monday is the brilliant idea of Travis Erwin. Please visit his blog for links to others who participate in this fun exercise.


Clair Dickson said...

This is a cool history. What was it about the area that drew people-- particularly the Eastern Settlers like Maynard?

Terrie Farley Moran said...

This is really very interesting. I love learning the history of how places came to be, and I admire the courage and fortitude of the people who began settlements that grew into great cities.


WriterKat said...

Great history here! It's so interesting to learn about the progression of the city. I think I mentioned I went to Seattle a few years ago and was quite impressed. It is beautiful and the surrounding nature parks are so inviting. I want to go back and really explore the state - there's so much to see.

Travis Erwin said...

Striking across the country and settling in the unknown had to take a mighty big set. I'm always fascinated to read about the adventurers who id that very thing.

Barrie said...

Wow. Loving all the history and the photos. And I'm so glad I personally didn't have to do the frontier thing. :)

Linda McLaughlin said...

4,000 years, wow, that's what I call history! Very interesting. I haven't been to Seattle in years, but I remember what a beautiful area it is.


Mary Witzl said...

I always love reading about the history of American towns and how they were named. This is very interesting.

Funny how Doc Maynard is wearing his glasses OVER his eyes for that photograph? Was that a fashion statement I wonder, or was he just trying to focus on the photographer?

kathie said...

Great post...I adore history and can't read all that without the beginnings of a novel forming in my head. How about you, Anti? ARe you using this rich stuff for a book? I hope so. The thing that gets me about the info is the line where you say brother Denny writes to other brother Denny and says "come at once." How the hell does other brother Denny know how to get there??? I can't fathom how people got from A to B before everything was mapped out. Patience had to be a big ass character trait back then, is my only guess.

Ello said...

I have to say I absolutely love the history of this post! It is so amazing to think of how these places came to be. Awesome post. I need to go visit!

The Anti-Wife said...

I'll have to do some digging to answer that one. Stay tuned.

It's hard to imagine the difficulties they encountered in settling these areas. They should be admired.

Seattle is beautiful and everyone should come and visit. It doesn't have the history of the East coast and midwest, but it is an interesting place.

A mighty big set indeed. There aren't too many people today who would leave the comfort of their homes to do something like that.

Me too. How could I live without my morning shower and coffee?

You should come back and visit again. We're always happy to take your money.

Did you notice the history mentioned Doc Maynard might be responsible for all the prostitution, liquor and gambling too? A multi-faceted man.

Not doing anything historical now, but who knows for the future. As to how they knew how to get there, I'm pretty sure they traveled by boat and just followed the coast lines.

You definitely need to come and visit!

Debbielou said...

Very interesting history - love the photo of the gentleman in his spectacles !