19th Century Communities Along Lake Washington

The Puget Sound region was one of the last frontiers of Westward Expansion. It wasn't until the 1850's and 1860's that communities started growing along her shores. By 1870, Seattle was a thriving logging town. Tacoma was gearing to become the main port on the sound. Port Townsend had already been established as a seaport, and other towns were growing quickly.

Meanwhile, across Lake Washington to the east of Seattle, homesteaders were just starting to build cabins. The waters of Lake Washington flowed into Puget Sound, but mostly through channels that were hard to navigate. The surrounding land, however, was very lush. Native Americans had campsites around the lake for centuries. Juanita Bay was a favored campsite, because of plentiful wapatos (a type of potato) that grew wild there. Yarrow Bay was the site of another Indian encampment.

The first settlers on the land surrounding what would later be known as Kirkland were the Popham and McGregor families, who homesteaded in what is now the Houghton neighborhood. They settled there in the late 1860's, when Indians were still living in the Yarrow Bay encampment. Four miles to the north, a few pioneers had settled around what they would later name Juanita Bay.

Over time, more homesteaders made their claims. The French family arrived in 1872 on land near the Pophams and McGregors. Harry French Sr. and his son, Harry Jr., spent the summer clearing the land and building their cabins. They supplemented their income by working in Seattle, usually at Henry Yesler's mill.

The Pophams and McGregors moved out by the end of the 1870's. Part of their land was sold to the Curtis family. Members of this family would later become instrumental in the East Side shipbuilding industry. The Church and Demott families also obtained land on the East Side.

Dorr Forbes and his family settled on Rose Hill in 1877. A few years later they moved to Juanita, where Dorr built and operated a shingle mill. The growth of homesteaders meant more land being cleared, which meant more wood for processing. Soon, other shingle mills dotted the countryside.

More people continued to make the East Side their home. The Fish family built a home north of the Curtis family. Their "Lake House" became a place for travelers to stay before or after crossing the lake. By 1880, canoes were a common means of travel across the lake. Getting to and from Seattle took most of a day. The first ferry, the "Squak", was nothing more than a scow with a wheelhouse, but it greatly opened travel to and from the East Side.

By the end of the 1880's, the East Side had become a small collection of communities. Logging, farming, boat-building and other mainstays of 19th Century living were the norm. But the Industrial Revolution, which had been ushering in a new era across the country, was about to change the East Side as well.

The Rise and Fall of Peter Kirk

 

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