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December 18, 2014 - December 23, 2014

Old Tacoma

In December 1883 New Tacoma merged with Tacoma City -- also known as Old Tacoma -- to become simply Tacoma. The path taken to unify the city's nomenclature was complicated, so we'll begin in 1864, when Job Carr arrived in Commencement Bay while on a fishing expedition. From the water, Carr spotted a small lagoon fed by two creeks and shouted "Eureka! Eureka!" He filed a claim and moved onto it with a yellow cat named Tom, hoping to build a city named Eureka.

Carr's dream came to pass in 1868 with the arrival of developer Morton Matthew McCarver. After seeing the sheltered bay and its majestic view of the mountain known in the Salish language as Tacoma or Tahoma, McCarver purchased most of Carr's land and invited other investors to file nearby claims. He platted a town he called Commencement City, but decided to change the name to Tacoma. Unfortunately for McCarver, Carr's son Anthony had already picked that name for his own town-site plat, so McCarver chose the name Tacoma City instead.

Tacoma City grew, and within five years McCarver had helped convince the Northern Pacific Railroad to choose Commencement Bay as its western terminus. The railroad platted a new town southeast of Tacoma City named New Tacoma, and many started referring to Tacoma City as Old Tacoma. Both communities operated separately until the merger ten years later -- Eureka!-- and the name Old Town is now used to refer to the neighborhood that was once Tacoma City.


Another merger that occurred this week in history took place on December 19, 1898, when the Skagit County towns of Sedro and Woolley became one after almost a decade of rivalry. Sedro began as a coal town and incorporated in 1891, right around the time railroad developer Phillip A. Woolley platted his namesake company town right next door. Even after the merger, some residents sought to maintain each half's individual identity.

Over the years, Sedro-Woolley has been the site of some of the more sensational and notorious events in Washington history. In 1911, outlaw Mike Donnelly was arrested there after the murder of a Whatcom County justice of the peace. Three years later, armed bank robbers shot up the town in a 15-minute barrage of bullets. In 1922, townsfolk went on the run from -- of all things -- a rampaging elephant, and in 1954, Sedro-Woolley residents were some of the first to encounter a strange phenomenon that spread throughout the region.

News Then, History Now

Double Play: On December 22, 1852, the Oregon Territorial Legislature created both King County and Pierce County. And on December 23, 1925, the Washington State Legislature changed the name of Clarke County to Clark County, fixing a spelling error that had been on the books since 1854.

In the Bay: On December 21, 1891, crowds swarmed along the Everett waterfront hoping to get a close-up view of the uniquely shaped whaleback freighter Charles W. Wetmore. Exactly 26 years later, folks in Seattle were more apprehensive when the Russian steamer Shilka steamed into Elliott Bay, just weeks after the Bolshevik Revolution.

Dangerous Flood: On December 23, 1918, the residents of Edgewick, a small logging community along Boxley Creek below Cedar Falls, lost everything they owned when a dam burst in the Cedar River watershed and sent a wall of water crashing through their town. No lives were lost in what became known as the Boxley Burst, but a deadlier flash flood occurred there 14 years later.

Chewing the Cud: On December 19, 1920, Segis Pietertje Prospect (better known as Possum Sweetheart) broke the world record for milk production out in Carnation. In a single year, the contented cow produced 37,361 pounds of milk, nearly nine times the average amount. In other, less triumphant, bovine history, this week marks the anniversary of the first U.S. case of mad-cow disease, which was discovered in a Mabton dairy cow on December 23, 2003.

Artists' Creations: In December 1935 Mark Tobey -- the "Guru of Seattle Painters" -- was busy creating the first of his influential white-writing-style paintings, which became an important influence in the development of Abstract Expressionism. In other art-history anniversaries, this month also marks the unveiling in 1976 of Michael Heizer's minimalist sculpture Adjacent, Against, Upon in Seattle's Myrtle Edwards Park, where two years earlier authorities had declined Buster Simpson's suggestion to design the new park by "re-orchestrating the rubble."

Spanning Locations: On December 18, 1953, the Dalles Bridge opened over the Columbia River, and in December 1962 the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge opened to traffic in Seattle. But Spokane marks a tragic event in bridge history this week. On December 18, 1915, the Division Street Bridge collapsed, sending five people to their deaths.

Quote of the Week

I continue to be interested in new things that seem old and old things that seem new.

                         -- Jaquelin T. Robertson

Image of the Week

A "Jazz Intoxication" bill was introduced in the Washington State Legislature on December 22, 1933.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Whaleback freighter Charles W. Wetmore arrives in Everett on December 21, 1891.

Ravensdale beginnings: Ravensdale Post Office opens on December 21, 1901.

Granite Falls incorporates on December 21, 1903.

Russian steamer Shilka enters Elliott Bay and causes excitement on December 21, 1917.

Washington Highway Director forced to go out of state to build four new ferries on December 21, 1965.

Federal Judge William L. Dwyer upholds the federal spotted owl management plan in a key National Environmental Policy Act court decision on December 21, 1994.

WSDOT abandons Hood Canal bridge graving dock project located on site of Klallam Indian village and cemetery on December 21, 2004.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Birch Bay Post Office opens on February 24, 1881.

Kingdome's first sporting event, an exhibition soccer match between the Seattle Sounders and New York Cosmos, draws crowd of 58,128 on April 9, 1976.

Goetz, Jacob "Dutch Jake" (1853-1927)

Geoghegan, James Theodore (1869-1953)

Buster Simpson's commission to create public art for Seattle's massive waterfront redevelopment is announced on January 9, 2013.

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