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November 25, 2015 – December 2, 2015

What Lies Below

On November 30, 1891, the City of Seattle adopted a plan to build a combined sewer system to handle both sewage and stormwater. City residents were already required to connect to existing sewer lines, but a growing population necessitated a more improved system of waste disposal. The new sewage lines were implemented a few years later, but the system was still problematic in that waste water and untreated sewage were discharged into local waterways.

Most of the offal was piped into Puget Sound to be carried away by tides and currents, but during heavy rains the overflow also poured into Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Duwamish River. During the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, drinking water at the fairgrounds became tainted when a plumbing mix-up shunted lake water into the fairgrounds' drinking-water supply. The resulting typhoid outbreak sickened more than 500 people, 61 of whom died.

Water-treatment facilities built in the 1920s helped lessen the health risk from the city's sewage outflow, but overflow conditions continued to turn Lake Washington into a giant toilet. In the 1950s the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, commonly known as Metro, was created to clean up Lake Washington. Once Metro began opening sewage treatment plants and stemming the discharge of sewage into the lake, its waters began to improve. (Image courtesy Gordon Werner)

Mission of Woe

In 1836, Dr. Marcus Whitman -- a Presbyterian missionary and physician -- established a mission at Waiilatpu on the Walla Walla River, after traveling cross-country with his wife Narcissa. Whitman's goal was to convert Cayuse Indians to Christianity and to teach them how to farm.

The far-flung Cayuse, who were master horsemen, evinced little interest in becoming settled farmers or in adopting a new religion. Reinforcement missionaries were sent from back east, including Elkanah and Mary Walker, who settled among the Spokane Indians and created a mission at Tshimikain. Meanwhile, the Whitman Mission became an important rest stop on the Oregon Trail.

The Cayuse resented the increasing number of emigrants passing through their land, but the breaking point came during a measles epidemic in 1847. Whitman treated the Indians, but they lacked immunity. More than half the tribe died, while almost all of Whitman's white patients recovered. Believing that Whitman had infected them, some Cayuse retaliated on November 29, 1847, killing 14 white settlers and missionaries. The public outrage over the attack led to a war of retaliation against the Cayuse and spurred the creation of Oregon Territory.

News Then, History Now

Four Cities: On December 2, 1869, Seattle finally became a city after an earlier misstep. Other Washington communities that got their start this time of year include Spokane Falls (later renamed Spokane) on November 29, 1881, Ilwaco on December 2, 1890, and Mountlake Terrace on November 29, 1954.

Four Counties: A quartet of Washington counties celebrates anniversaries this week. Whitman County was established on November 29, 1871, and Garfield County was established on November 29, 1881. Two years later, Douglas County and Adams County were both created on November 28, 1883.

Moving On: No sooner did Yakima City incorporate on December 1, 1883, than its residents learned that the expected Northern Pacific Railroad station would be built north of their town instead of on the tracks passing through it. So they uprooted 100 buildings and replanted them four miles away -- right next to the new depot. The new community took the name North Yakima but later became Yakima, while what remained of the original town was eventually renamed Union Gap.

Moving In: On December 2, 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved funding for Yesler Terrace, located on Seattle's First Hill. The public-housing project -- overseen by the Seattle Housing Authority -- was completed shortly after the nation entered World War II, at which point the SHA focused on providing housing for defense-industry workers and military families.

Bus Riders' Fear: On November 26, 1945, 15 children lost their lives when their school bus slid off the road and sank in the icy waters of Lake Chelan. And on November 27, 1998, a Metro bus plunged off the Aurora Bridge after the driver was shot by a crazed passenger.

No Longer Here: Logging and mining were important industries in Washington's early days, but times do change. On November 30, 1995, the Port Gamble sawmill closed, marking the end of the oldest continuously operating sawmill in the country. And on November 27, 2006, the last coal mine in Washington shut down near Centralia.

Quote of the Week

Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

                                 --Tom Lehrer

Image of the Week

Olympia was chosen as the capital of Washington on November 28, 1853.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

St. Anne's Mission is established on Umatilla River on November 27, 1847.

Port of Sunnyside is formed on November 27, 1964.

Metro bus plunges off Seattle's Aurora Bridge after driver is shot on November 27, 1998.

SuperSonics name Nate McMillan head coach on November 27, 2000.

Last coal mine in Washington closes on November 27, 2006.

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Outdoor-clothing businessman Clinton C. Filson receives patent for Cruiser shirt on March 3, 1914.

C. C. Filson Company

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