Mercer Girls reach Seattle on May 16, 1864.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 11/04/1998
  • Essay 166

On May 16, 1864, at 11 p.m. the first 11 Mercer Girls reach Seattle. To increase the supply of teachers and women in the Puget Sound area, Seattle resident Asa Mercer (1839-1917) recruits the women from the East Coast. Their ages range from 15 to 35. The contingent travels from New York via the Isthmus of Panama and San Francisco. Two of this group, Josie Pearson (d. 1864) and Catherine "Kate" Stickney (1834-1869), will die before the turn of the decade. Most teach school and then marry.

The first 11 Mercer Girls were:

  • Josephine "Josie" Pearson (died in August, 1864): Sister of Georgia. Taught at Coupeville, Whidbey Island;
  • Georgia Pearson: Sister of Josie. Taught on Whidbey Island and then became assistant lighthouse keeper at Admiralty Head near the entrance to Puget Sound. Married Whidbey Island Pioneer Charley T. Terry;
  • Sarah Cheney: Taught at Port Townsend and married Charles Willoughby;
  • Sarah J. Gallagher: Married Thomas Russell on April 24, 1865. Taught music and school at the Territorial University in downtown Seattle;
  • Antoinette Baker: Taught in Pierce County and married a Mr. Huntington of Monticello;
  • Aurelia Coffin: Taught at Port Ludlow and married a Mr. Hinckley there.
  • Lizzie Ordway (b. 1828): Taught at Whidbey Island. In 1870 she became a Seattle Public School teacher. Later she taught at Port Madison, and became superintendent of schools in Kitsap County;
  • Kate Stevens: Cousin of Kate Stickney. Married Henry Smith, a customs inspector of Port Townsend;
  • Catherine "Kate" Stickney (1834-1869): Cousin of Kate Stevens. Married Walter Graham on July 20, 1864;
  • Ann Murphy: She was the only one of this group who did not remain in the Territory;
  • Annie Adams: Married Robert G. Head, an Olympia, Washington, printer.


Roberta Frye Watt, Four Wagons West: The Story of Seattle (Portland, OR: Binfords and Mort, Publishers, 1931), 310, 312-313; Marjorie Rhodes, Biography Notes on Pioneers of Puget Sound (Seattle: Marjorie Rhodes, 1992), 14, 17, 161; Thomas Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897," typescript dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, 151; Peri Muhich's Webpage on the Mercer Girls:(

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