Collins, Van Asselt, and Maple (or Mapel) select first Donation Land Claims in King County on September 16, 1851.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 10/03/2000
  • Essay 1750
On September 16, 1851, Luther M. Collins (1813-1860), Henry Van Asselt (1817-1902), and Jacob Maple (or Mapel) (1798-1884) and his son Samuel Maple (1827-1880) select the first Donation Land claims within the future King County. The four settlers choose rich Duwamish River bottomland in what would later become Georgetown.

About two weeks later, on September 27, 1851, they brought household goods and Luther Collins brought his family members by scow from the Nisqually River near Ft. Steilacoom to their claims.

Names and Ages of the Collins Party upon Their Arrival on the Duwamish on September 27, 1851

  • Luther Collins, about 37
  • Diana (Borst) Collins, about 36
  • Lucinda Collins, 13 or 14
  • Stephen Collins, about 7
  • Jacob Maple (or Mapel), 53
  • Samuel A. Maple (or Mapel), 23
  • Henry Van Asselt, 34
The area of the Van Asselt claim was annexed to the City of Seattle in 1907. The Collins claim and both Maple claims were incorporated as the City of Georgetown in 1890 and were annexed by the City of Seattle in 1910.

Proposed Earlier Arrival Date for Collins Party Probably Inaccurate

On page 20 of his History of Seattle, Clarence Bagley notes that a descendent of Jacob Maple reported that the farmers actually staked and filed their claims on June 22, 1851, the date of their arrival. Bagley very likely obtained this date from Eli Maple. Eli traveled west over the Oregon Trail and joined his father and brother in the Duwamish River valley in October 1852. Fifty years later, Eli Maple published an autobiographical account in a local newspaper in which he relates that Collins, Van Asselt, and his father Jacob and brother Samuel "were the first settlers who located here -- June 22, 1851."

Yet it is doubtful that the Collins party reached the Duwamish River Valley and Puget Sound that early. Evidence suggests that in early July 1851, at least two of these homesteaders were farther south, in Oregon. In March 1855, Samuel Maple stated in a Donation Land Claim filing that he arrived in Oregon Territory on July 1, 1851. This probably refers to the date he entered Oregon Territory while traveling north from the California gold fields. The Samuel Maple party included Jacob Maple and Luther Collins and perhaps Henry Van Asselt and his group of returning miners who joined forces somewhere between California and the Columbia River.

Moreover, two different biographical sketches place Henry Van Asselt in Oregon in early July 1851, and imply that Collins and the two Maples were with him. Finally, a letter dated January 1, 1880, published in The West Shore in 1884, and signed by King County pioneers Henry Van Asselt, William Bell, Henry Yesler, Carson Boren, and Arthur and David Denny, gives a chronology of settlement in King County. This letter states: "September 16, 1851 -- Henry Van Assalt, Jacob Mapel and L. M. Collins selected claims on Duwamish River ...."

The Duwamish settlers assisted the Denny Party, which arrived later that fall, and Luther Collins served as one of King County's original Commissioners, but the Georgetown community itself was overshadowed by the rapid development of Seattle proper. It was annexed by its larger northern neighbor in 1910.

Sources: Clarence Bagley, History of Seattle (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1916) and History of King County, Washington (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929); Miriam Baughman et al., Duwamish Diary (Seattle: Franklin High School, 1949, 1996); Murray Morgan, Skid Road, An Informal Portrait of Seattle (New York: Viking Press, 1951); Lucile McDonald, "Seattle's Durable Maple Clan," The Seattle Times, November 24, 1957, Magazine section, 8.

Related Topics:   Agriculture | Firsts | Pioneers

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