Early History of Seattle

Seattle WA

History of Seattle/Early History of Seattle
Written By VAMONDE Seattle

Early History

In the mid-1850s the Coast Salish peoples of what is now called the Duwamish Tribe and Suquamish, as well as other associated groups and tribes, were living in some 13 villages within the present-day city limits of Seattle. According to many sources, Seattle was founded from the arrival of the Denny Party scouts on September 25, 1851. However, Luther Collins, Henry Van Asselt, and the Maple family founded the first permanent structure, a farming settlement, on what is currently the Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown on September 27, 1851. Arthur A. Denny, of the Denny Party, and Luther Collins were the first commissioners of King County after its creation in 1852.

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Seattle in its early decades relied on the timber industry, shipping logs (and later, milled timber) to San Francisco. When Henry Yesler brought the first steam sawmill to the region, he chose a location on the waterfront near downtown Seattle. Thereafter, Seattle would dominate the lumber industry in the United States. All of this occurred against a background of rocky relations with the local Native American population, including the Battle of Seattle on January 25, 1856. The logging town developed rapidly over the decades into a small city. Seattle quickly developed a reputation as a wide-open town, a haven for prostitution, liquor, and gambling. Seattle was incorporated as a town on January 14, 1865. That charter was voided January 18, 1867, in response to questionable activities of the town's elected leaders. Seattle was re-incorporated December 2, 1869. At the times of incorporations, the population was approximately 350 and 1,000, respectively.


On July 14, 1873, the Northern Pacific Railway announced that they had chosen the village of Tacoma over Seattle as the Western terminus of their transcontinental railroad. Seattle made several attempts to build a railroad of its own or to leverage one to come to the city. The Great Northern Railway finally came to Seattle in 1884, winning Seattle a place in the competition for freight, though it would be 1906 before Seattle finally acquired a major rail passenger terminal. Seattle in this era was a relatively lawless town. Schools barely operated, and indoor plumbing was a rare novelty. In the low mudflats, where much of the city was built, sewage was almost as likely to come in on the tide as to flow away. However, with further development, Seattle became cleaner and safer. In the 1880s, Seattle got its first streetcar and a cable car, ferry service, a YMCA gymnasium, and the exclusive Rainier Club, and passed an ordinance requiring attached sewer lines for all new residences. It also began to develop a road system. There was an influx of Chinese laborers as well and in 1883, Chinese laborers played a key role in the first effort at digging the Montlake Cut to connect Lake Union's Portage Bay to Lake Washington's Union Bay. However, this influx led to a great deal of anti-Chinese and immigrant sentiment and many Chinese immigrants were forcibly moved from Seattle.

The Great Fire and the Klondike Gold Rush

The early Seattle era came to a stunning halt with the Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889. Started by a glue pot, the fire burned 29 city blocks. It destroyed most of the entire business district, all of the railroad terminals, and all but four of the wharves. Thanks in part to lending arranged by Jacob Furth, Seattle rebuilt from the ashes quickly. A new zoning code resulted in a Central Business District of brick and stone buildings, rather than wood. In the single year after the fire, the city grew from 25,000 to 40,000 inhabitants, largely because of the enormous number of construction jobs. The greatest boom period for Seattle occurred during the Klondike gold rush. Seattle, as well as the rest of the nation, was suffering from the economic panic of 1893, and to a lesser extent, the panic of 1896. Gold was discovered in August 1896 in the Klondike region of Canada. Seattle was the supply center and the jumping-off point for transportation to and from Alaska and the goldfields of the Yukon. The rush ended the depression overnight for Seattle.

Cover Image sourced from Wikipedia and available on Public Domain. All information sourced from Wikipedia.

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