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Full text of "From Salem, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, in 1859"

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FROM SALEM, OREGON, TO SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, IN 1859 

Approximately six years have passed since arriving in Oregon and 
the lad of fifteen years has, so he thinks, become a man, having recently 
passed his twenty-first birthday, and is now looking for "new worlds to 
conquer." 

Filled with bright anticipations of future success, no thought of pos- 
sible failure ever entered his mind. 

Perhaps more for the love of adventure than anything else, I had 
made up my mind to quit the Willamette Valley, with all of its wonderful 
attractions — climate, soil, snow capped mountain peaks, and whence flowed 
many sparkling streams; to sever the fond associations of home and the 
ties of newly made friendships and to launch out into new and untried 
fields. 

My home life had been as happy, perhaps more so, than that of the 
average person just entering upon young manhood. However, "The Home 
Sweet Home" idea seemed to me to contain more of fiction than of fact. 
I had yet to learn how "dear to the heart are the scenes of our childhood 
when fond recollection presents them to view." 

If the boys and the girls, the young men and the young women of 
today, could be made to fully realize that "There is no place like home," 
there would be fewer sad hearted Fathers and weeping Mothers. How- 
ever, it seems to be the lot of man to learn many of life's most important 
lessons by sad experience. 

While I look back with much pleasure upon the years spent in 
Oregon, I am glad I cast my lot upon the shores of Puget Sound — ^The 
Mediterranean of America. 

I think perhaps I had not been fully weaned from the life of ad- 
venture incident to six months spient upon the Great Plains among the 
Indians, the buffalo, the antelope and the bands of semi-wild horses, 
and that this may have had more or less to do with my determination 
to leave Oregon, without having any very definite idea as to where I might 
finally locate. 

From this growing inclination to wander on, to try new and un- 
explored fields, my Father sought to dissuade me, suggesting farm life as 
the safe and sane life for me. This suggestion of my dear old Father did 
not appeal to me as he had hoped it might. Seeing therefore that I had 
made up my mind to go. Father gave me his blessing and advised me to 
join a party then being made up in that vicinity bound for Seattle, a small 
and insignificant village of about one hundred inhabitants (within the 

(100) 



From Salem to Seattle 101 

then incorporated limits of the town), located on the east shore of Elliott 
Bay, an arm of Puget Sound. Inasmuch as my sister Loretta had but 
recently married Judge Thomas Mercer, a resident of Seattle, and one of 
the party referred to, I readily fell in with the suggestion, and August 
the 29th, 1859, found me one of this party of twelve persons bound for 
Seattle. 

This party was composed of the following named persons, to-wit: 
Judge Thomas Mercer and his wife, Hester Loretta Mercer (nee Ward) ; 
Hon. John Denny, his wife and daughter Loretta; James Campbell and 
his wife with their two sons and two daughters, Rice, Findlay, Virginia 
and Susie, and myself. 

John Denny, "Uncle" John Denny, as we all loved to call him, 
was the Father of A. A. Denny and D. T. Denny, both of them resi- 
dents of Seattle, where they had arrived November 13, 1 85 1 , landing at 
that time at Alki Point, where they spent the Winter. 

The first night from home, which was near the Pringle school 
house, three miles south of Salem, was spent at the Campbell home- 
stead, in the Waldo hills, seven miles southeast of Salem; from whence, 
early the next morning, the party with wagons, teams, loose stock — 
most of the latter being the property of Judge Mercer — made the final 
start for Seattle. 

I had in my care on this trip for sale, a number of work oxen be- 
longing to my Father and my half brother B. S. Ward. These I dis- 
posed of at a fair price, sending the proceeds of the sale to "The folks 
at home," care of the purser of a steamer bound from Puget Sound to San 
Francisco. This steamer never reached port, going down somewhere off 
the Oregon coast with all on board. This money was sent in this round 
about way, because there was an express from the Sound country to 
San Francisco, thence to Portland, Oregon, and on up the Willamette 
Valley to Salem, but no express overland from Seattle to Portland, 
Oregon. This money was a loss severely felt by my home people. 

Our party of twelve persons were seventeen days in making the trip 
from the homie near Salem to Seattle, much of the way over a very rough 
road, in many places little more than a trail. People of today who travel 
on well equipped trains, making the run from Seattle to Portland in six 
hours and passing enroute prosperous towns and cities, can hardly realize 
that where these now are, there was then the dense forest all unoccupied 
except by wild beasts and roving Indians. 

Salem, the capital of Oregon, had not to exceed one thousand in- 
habitants. Hon. Arthur A. Denny, in "Pioneer Days on Puget Sound," 
gives the population of Portland in 1851 at 2,000, and says Portland 



102 DillisB.WaTd 

claimed 6,000 in 1853, which I think an over-estimate. Oregon City 
had not to exceed two hundred and fifty. 

At Portland, wagons, teams, cattle and people shipped aboard a 
small steamer for Monticello, two miles above the mouth of the Cowlitz 
river, where we arrived after an all day's voyage down the Willamette 
and Columbia rivers. Monticello had a future, but being located upon 
ground liable to overflow, has since been abandoned. 

Our route led us along up the Cowlitz river for some considerable 
distance, passing the homes of a number of early settlers, who had fairly 
well improved farms and who seemed to be leading prosperous and happy 
lives. 

Along the line of our travel after leaving the Cowlitz river, at the 
Bishop homestead, we passed a number of settlers who had but recently 
returned to their homes, from which they had been driven by the Indians 
during the Indian War of 1855-6. All seemed happy and glad to re- 
sume life on the frontier, with all its duties and responsibilities. 

At Arkansas (at Pumphrey's), on the Cowlitz river, near where the 
Olequa empties into the Cowlitz river, on Ford's Prairie, on the Grand 
Mound Prairie, on the Yelm, the old French Canadian settlement in the 
vicinity of Old Fort Nisqually (formerly the headquarters of the Hudson 
Bay Company north of the Columbia River) , Bird's Mill, on the Puyallup 
River, and in the White River Valley, settlers were beginning to gather 
in considerable numbers. 

At Bird's Mill, only a short distance from Fort Steilacoom, then a 
military post, we went into camp for a day, then into the town of 
Steilacoom; from whence, everything except the cattle was shipped to. 
Seattle. 

In company with Judge Mercer and the Campbell boys, I came 
through to Seattle with the cattle. Our first stop after leaving Bird's Mill 
was on the north side of the Puyallup river, at the home of a Mr. Carson 
and his wife, who were living in a block-house, built and occupied by the 
settlers for defensive purposes during the Indian war of 1 855-6. Our 
party undertook to drive from Carson's to C. C. Lewis' place, on the 
Duwamish river in one day, but failed and were compelled, after traveling 
for an hour or two after daylight had left us, to stop for the night. 

I unsaddled my horse and laid down under a cedar tree, using my 
saddle for a pillow and slept soundly until about daylight next morning, 
when I was awakened by rain falling upon my face. As soon as it was 
light enough to see, we gathered our scattered cattle together and, wet and 
cold, proceeded on our way to the Lewis home, where we waited while 
Mrs. Lewis prepared us a breakfast of hot biscuit and coffee, with ham 
and eggs, to which it is perhaps needless to say we did ample justice, having 



From Salem to Seattle 103 

had nothing to eat foV more than twenty-four hours, except a hght pocket 
lunch at noon the day before. We were then nine miles from Seattle. We 
left our cattle three miles further on, with Walter Graham, arriving in 
Seattle early in the afternoon of September 1 4, 1 859. 

My first meal in Seattle was taken at the home of Mr. and Mrs. 
David T. Denny, who were then living in a small house on the south 
side of Marion Street, between what is now First and Second Avenues. 
I do not remember all we may have had for dinner that day, but I do 
remember the fine large baked salmon which graced the table, and how 
I relished this, my first introduction to salt water fish. 

Of the people who were then living in Seattle, it may be truth- 
fully said they were possessed in large measure with those qualities, in- 
telligence, honesty, industry, and a spirit of independence and self re- 
liance so essential to the founding of a great and growing community. 
There was an entire absence of the "wild and woolly west" spirit. The 
founders of Seattle were a law abiding and law enforcing people. 

That the location at Seattle was no chance afiair, but was made 
after careful and intelligent investigation, will appear from the following 
quotation from "Pioneer Days on Puget Sound," by Hon. Arthur A. 
Denny, wherein he says: "In the month of February we began ex- 
ploring around Elliott Bay, taking soundings and examining the timber." 

Acts of theft were few and far between, but when detected were 
promptly and adequately punished. Holdups and burglaries were un- 
known. The "clothes-line," with the Monday's washing thereon, might 
remain out all week with perfect safety. So the man who had located 
on a homestead and had commenced to improve the same, might leave his 
ax or saw at the place where he had discontinued his work at the end 
of the day with every assurance that he would find it where left whether 
his return was upon the next day or the next week. 

One of the things which impressed me most soon after my arrival 
in Seattle, was that every one seemed to be busy — .there were no idlers 
here, and consequently no beggars. 

Hospitality and goodfellowship were proverbial. It was not an 
unusual thing for men in traveling the trails from one point to another to 
fail to reach their destination as expected, but as was usually true, all 
carried a box of matches and a rifle or revolver and when thus equipped 
felt perfectly safe though they might have to spend the night under the 
friendly shelter of some large fir tree. 

In the early days, men sometimes ventured out some distance from 
the settlements and located upon homesteads, building their cabins and 
clearing the land, laying the foundation for peace and plenty in the de- 
clining years of life. These early settlers were almost without exception 



104 Dillis B.Ward 

unmarried men and were not always at home, being absent therefrom some- 
times days and possibly weeks on business, but should the traveler come 
upon one of these isolated cabins as night was about to overtake him, 
it was a part of the unwritten law of the land that he might enter 
therein, making himself at home for the night, using whatever he might 
find there with which to make himself comfortable and, upon his departure 
next morning, leave a note of thanks therefor. 

I sometimes feel as if I could almost wish for the return of the grand 
old pioneer days of sixty or more years ago. 

Chief Seattle, for whom the town was named, was a square 
shouldered, deep chested, stockily built Indian, with a voice like a 
trumpet. I saw him upon one occasion when he was addressing a council 
of his people, at a point about where First Avenue intersects Yesler Way. 
His clothing at that time consisted of a pair of pants, a shirt and a rather 
heavy blanket thrown over his left shoulder and drawn around under 
his right arm and shoulder, where it was fastened, thus leaving the right 
arm free, which was frequently raised in gesticulation, while the left arm 
and hand seemed to rest loosely by his side. 

As I have before stated, there were about one hundred white people 
in Seattle when I first arrived there September 14th, 1859, and about 
an equal number of Indians. As far as I am now able to remember, at 
this distant date, the following named persons were living in what is now 
the incorporated limits of the City of Seattle October 1 st, 1 859, namely : 

Hon. Arthur A. Denny, wife and five children, who were then liv- 
ing in a small cottage on the east side of Front Street, now Frst Avenue, 
between Madison and Marion Streets. 

D. T. Denny, wife and three children, who at that time occupied 
a small house on the south side of Marion Street between what is now 
First and Second Avenues. 

Dexter Horton, wife and daughter, living in rooms back of the store 
then owned by Dexter Horton on or near the N. W. corner of Washing- 
ton and Commercial Street, now First Avenue South. 

Judge Thomas Mercer, wife (nee Ward), and his two daughters, 
Susie and Alice. The first named soon after married David Graham. 
AKce later on became the wife of C. B. Bagley, at present Secretary 
of the Board of Public Works of the City of Seattle. Their home was 
on the east side of old Commercial Street, now First Avenue South, sixty 
feet south of Washington Street. 

L. M. Collins and family, then residing on the north bank of the 
Duwamish river, near where the present bridge crosses that stream. 

John Denny, who with his wife and daughter arrived in Seattle 



From Salem to Seattle 105 

September 1 4th, 1839, occupied a small house on the east side of Front 
Street (now First Avenue), near Madison Street. 

Henry L. Yesler and wife, whose house, a one story frame, was 
located on the N. E. corner of James Street and old Front Street (now 
First Avenue), the same being the corner occupied by the Pioneer Build- 
ing of seven stories. 

Hillory Butler and wife, then living on the N. W. corner of James 
and Second Streets, now Second Avenue. 

L. C. Harmon, owner of the old New England Hotel, on north side 
of Main Street near Occidental Avenue, wife, two daughters and one 
son. 

Capt. John S. Hill, wife and son; John A. Suffren, wife and son; 
Charles Plummer, wife, daughter and. two sons; Charles C. Terry, wife 
and daughter; John Ross, wife and two sons, residence second lot north 
of Madison and Front Streets, now First Avenue; Capt. S. D. Libby, 
wife and adopted son. They lived S. E. corner Second and James. 
John Pike, wife and son, N. E. corner Second and James. Dr. D. S. 
Maynard and wife lived on East side of Commercial Street, now First 
Avenue South, between Main and Jackson Streets. L. V. Wyckoff, 
wife and two stepchildren, lived on Second Street, now Second Avenue, 
where the Alaska Building now stands. W. W. White, wife and two 
children, residence on S. E. corner of Front Street, now First Avenue 
and Columbia Street. David W. Conklin and wife, Mrs. Conklin kept 
the hotel on the southeast corner of Main Street and old Commercial 
Street, now First Avenue South. Walter Graham, wife and son, residing 
near the Denny Clay Company's works, on Duwamish River. And S. 
Wetmore and family. 

The following named residents were then unmarried, viz: Ira A. 
Utter, D. Parmelee, George F. Frye, D. K. Baxter, R. H. Beatty, Albert 
Pinkham, H. A. Atkins, Ira Woodin, M. D. Woodin, T. D. Hinckley, 
W. H. Surber, J. T. Jordan, David Hill, Thos. S. Russell, Robt. Russell, 
Henry Van Asselt, J. A. Chase, A. C. Anderson, E. Richardson, Wil- 
liam Fife, E. A. Clark, Steve Hilton, M. B. Judkins, Hugh McAleer, 
Manuel Lopez, Jeff Hunt, Dr. J. R. Williamson, Dutch Charley, Ned 
Ohm, Frank Matthias, Capt. Rand, David Graham, Jack Harvey, Jacob 
Wivens, Bob Gardner, D. B. Ward, and J. H. Nagle. Many former 
settlers had gone away but returned within the next year or two. 

When I arrived in Seattle in 1859, the block-house, to which the 
people were forced to flee for safety during the attack upon the town by 
the Indians, was still standing. It occupied a prominent point on the 
west side of what is now First Avenue, directly opposite the intersection of 
Cherry Street with First Avenue. 



106 DillhB.Ward 

On our way from Salem to Seattle, we passed a number of these 
block-houses after leaving the Columbia River, into which the white settlers 
had been compelled to flee in order to escape the hostile Indians. 

I have sometimes thought we are prone to a too severe criticism of 
the Indians for the wars waged, not only locally but generally. Were 
they not doing what we would do if our own land was being overrun by 
a foreign foe? Possibly their methods may have been open to criticism. 
Be that as it may, they had not learned the lesson and had not grasped 
the great thought of "The survival of the fittest." 

The Methodist Episcopal Church, under the guidance of Rev. D. E. 
Blaine, had erected a small church building on the second lot from the 
S. E. corner of Columbia Street and Second Street, now Second Avenue, 
now occupied by the building known as the Boston Block. This building 
was a mere shell, but had been used for church gatherings. Among 
other evidences of the attack by the Indians upon Seattle, was the scars 
this building bore, particularly the bullet holes in the windows. 

From the possible one hundred people living here in 1859, Seattle 
has grown to a great — great in many ways — city of more than 300,000 
inhabitants. It is not strange, therefore, if the old-timer finds it difficult 
to locate definitely many of the once familiar spots. 

DiLLis B. Ward.