Thursday, January 29, 2015

Who Were The First People To Settle In The Yesler Swamp Area in The 1900's?


The Friends of Yesler Swamp, located in Laurelhurst, has published a variety of posts regarding the history of Yesler Swamp, including history of the area from settlement, sawmill, town of Yesler, historic photos, videos, source notes and more.

The website says:
Most people know that Henry Yesler once ran a mill in downtown Seattle at the foot of what we now call Yesler way. But what does Yesler Swamp have to do with the famous Seattle pioneer? Find out the answer to this and lots more.
Here is one of the excerpts from their Blog about the people who first settled in that area of the neighborhood, including some history of families with streets named after them:



In the early days, a band of Duwamish Indians known as the hah-choo-AHBSH or “Lake People” lived in villages along the shores of Lake Washington. They moved about from season to season, canoeing through the waters and marshes of Union Bay. Their large canoes, carved from a single huge log of western red cedar, had gently up-curving bows and tapering, angled sterns.[6] A carved Salish canoe can be seen today at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle.

“Chudups John and others in a canoe on Lake Union, ca. 1885,” University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections SHS 2228.

The Lake People spoke Lushootseed, the Puget Sound Salish language. They are said to have buried their dead across from Yesler Swamp on Foster Island, which was known as “Stitici.”[7]A village not far from Yesler Swamp was one of their seasonal homes. An influential Duwamish group constructed their principal longhouse near what is now Talaris.[8]

The Duwamish who lived on Union Bay traveled to Lake Union along a portage called “Skhwacugwot” (“portage” in Lushootseed.) This is probably the route marked “Indian Trail” on an early Seattle map.

The small cove that is now Yesler Swamp, known as “ádeed,” was where the Lake People gathered to play “slahal,” a bone game. In the late 19th century, the site was set aside as a camping spot for the Indians. [9]

Food was plentiful on a seasonal basis around Yesler Swamp. In spring, the women foraged salmonberry shoots and bracken fern fiddleheads, while the men hunted deer or elk grazing on the nearby skunk cabbage grasslands.



White settlement around Yesler Swamp began in the middle of the 19th century. The US government completed its first survey mapping the shores of Lake Washington in 1856.[10]
As the 1856 map shows, in those days – before the Montlake Canal joined the waterways – Union Bay was connected to Lake Union only by the Indian trails:

Cadastral Survey, US Bureau of Land Management (Jan. 20, 1856) (edited)

The lake waters lapping over Yesler Swamp stretched east to the present day Surber Drive and north across NE 41st Street. Yesler Creek drained into a marshland where Talaris now is located. On the west, Union Bay came up to University Village and almost to Calvary Cemetery.The state of Washington later designated the waters of Yesler Swamp as Waterway No. 2.[11]

A primitive road was cut through the woods into the Union Bay area in late 1871.[12] On September 16, 1872, William H. Surber laid claim to a 165 acre tract of land on the north end of Union Bay, including what is now Yesler Swamp.[13] Surber, known as “Uncle Joe,” gave his name to Surber Drive, the eastern boundary of Yesler Swamp.

William Harvey Surber, n.d.,” MOHAI Photograph Collection No. 1957.1284.7.

Game was abundant in Joe Surber’s day, including deer, cougars, wildcats, and elk. Surber, who was famous as a hunter, killed five elk not far from Yesler Swamp. He also is credited with killing Seattle’s last cougar near his Union Bay homestead:
“It was by his hand that the last cougar slain in the vicinity of Seattle met its death. This event happened on his place on Union Bay in 1895. The dogs forced the beast to mount a fence, and Mr. Surber, wishing not to mar its pelt with a ball, killed it with a picket”.[14]

Surber built his homestead across from Yesler Swamp at NE 41st Street and Laurel Boulevard (now 38th Avenue NE). There he farmed and lived with his nieces, Clara and Alice Shelton.[15] Surber died on July 1, 1923, and is buried in Lake View Cemetery.[16]

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