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