Catherine Troutman Simmons was born on July 19, 1816, in Meade County, Kentucky, (about 20 miles southwest of Louisville) on her mother’s family’s plantation. Her mother was Mary Troutman Simmons (later Morton). Her father was Jonathan Simmons. Her family called her Kitty.
In 1831, following her father’s death, the family moved to Pike County, Illinois, and on December 6, 1832, 16-year-old Catherine married Israel Broshears. Before his marriage, Broshears had been a Mississippi river boat pilot. After marrying Catherine he took up farming.
Tragedy on the Journey West
On March 22, 1850, Catherine and Israel Broshears set off for Oregon Territory. Their wagon party included her mother, her stepfather James Morton, her sister Susanna Simmons Rider, Susanna’s husband Samuel Rider (who was blind), Israel’s brother William Broshears, and several other family members. Catherine’s brothers Michael Simmons (1814-1867) and Andrew Simmons had made the journey in 1844 and 1849 respectively. Michael Simmons was one of the founders of Tumwater, the first American settlement in what would become the state of Washington.
In June 1850, while the Broshears party was camped about 85 miles west of Fort Kearney, Nebraska, the wagon party was stricken with cholera. Cholera is a bacterial disease spread by unsanitary water. It was endemic on the Oregon Trail, especially in 1850. A healthy person could be struck down with intense stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and die within hours. Cholera was (and is) extremely contagious. Called the Scourge of the Trail, cholera killed scores of emigrants.
Doctor David Maynard had left behind a troubled marriage in Ohio and was en route to California when he came across the stricken Broshears party. Catherine's husband Israel Broshears had been dead several hours. The Simmons family Bible, which descendants loaned for a number of years to the State Capital Museum in Olympia, bears the notation “Israel Broshears died June 7, 1850. Mother died June 8, 1850.” This Bible was known to have been among Mary Simmons Morton’s possessions in the wagon at the time of her death. Catherine's brother-in-law William Broshears also died on June 8.
Just before Catherine’s mother died, she extracted David Maynard’s promise to “give every assistance” (Seattle P-I, October 21, 1906) to Catherine and any others who might survive. “ ‘Help them, Doctor. Don’t desert my children’ ” (quoted in Prosch, 66).
Catherine refused to leave the bodies of her husband, mother, and brother-in-law unburied. David Maynard helped her bury the dead, and after fetching his belongings he joined her in her wagon. “The widow is ill in both body and mind,” he wrote in his journal (quoted in Prosch, 11). The Morton/Broshears/Rider wagons continued on together. Between June 11 and June 25 four more members of the group succumbed to cholera despite Dr. Maynard’s assistance.
By late July, the wagons were traveling separately, although within a few miles of each other. Disagreements between David Maynard and Samuel and Susanna Rider about travel logistics (and possibly Susanna’s alarm over David and Catherine’s growing attachment) prompted the split. David continued doctoring anyone ill they met along their journey, usually getting paid for his services. By the time the couple reached The Dalles on September 16, 1850, Maynard was driving the ox team and had taken charge. “Mrs. Broshears found it convenient to leave everything to him” (Prosch, 67).
The time on the trail, intimacy thrust upon them, sparked romance, but was also brutal. On September 17, 1850, Maynard noted in his diary that the pair “buried a child which we found upon the bank of the river, drowned” (quoted in Morgan, 15). The couple was also not really alone as they traveled. George Benton, nephew of Senator Thomas H. Benton, had lost all of his belongings when his own wagon was swept away while crossing the South Platte. He hired on with David and Catherine for $18 per month and some clothes. Maynard’s diary makes it clear that George traveled with the couple, more or less.
They reached Olympia on September 25, 1850. Catherine moved in with her brother Michael Simmons, a storekeeper, his wife Elizabeth (Kindred) Simmons and their rapidly growing family. The Simmons were among the earliest non-Indians to settle in the Puget Sound region.
David Maynard decided not to go to California as he had originally planned. He settled three miles north of Catherine in Smither (also called Smithfield and now Olympia). As an attractive young widow Catherine had many suitors, and her family encouraged her to make a match that would help her brothers’ business fortunes. Catherine’s weeks in her wagon with David Maynard, however, had established a romance.
This scandalized her family, particularly since David Maynard was already married. Michael and Andrew Simmons “restrained her somewhat of her liberty, and prevented her going with him when they could. More than once they were on the verge of stopping by force the marriage. Mrs. Rider threatened to shoot Dr. Maynard. The later was not intimidated ... . The widow told her relatives that she would marry Doctor Maynard or no one” (Prosch, 70-71).
Maynard persisted in his suit. By 1851 he had hauled 400 cords of wood that he had cut by hand to San Francisco, sold it, and bought the goods to open a small store in Olympia. In the spring of 1852 he staked a claim on Elliott Bay and founded a small store. In the midst of pioneering this tiny new settlement, Doctor Maynard regularly made the four-day dugout canoe trip to Tumwater to visit Catherine.
On December 24, 1852, the Oregon legislature granted Maynard a divorce from his wife Lydia (although this event would later be contested -- he may have implied to the legislature that Lydia was dead), and on January 15, 1853, David Maynard and Catherine Broshears were married near Bush Prairie. The Reverend Benjamin F. Close officiated. They settled in Duwamps (which Doc Maynard later renamed Seattle) some five days later. “There was no bridal tour and no time wasted” (Prosch, 34).
The Maynards New Life in Seattle
The Maynards ran the Seattle Exchange, the town’s first store. Catherine served as nurse when David doctored someone.
Catherine claimed to have been the first white woman “to see and touch Lake Washington. With her husband she made the journey up the Duwamish and Black rivers, taking many weary hours to a trip which one can now make across the hills by street car in a few minutes” (Seattle P-I, July 22, 1906). She also claimed to have named the Cedar River and Cedar Lake.
Chief Seattle’s daughter Kikisoblu Seattle was one of the first people to befriended Catherine in her new home. Catherine’s biographer Thomas Prosch credits Catherine with re-naming Kikisoblu Angeline. Their friendship lasted until Angeline’s death on May 31, 1896.
In the Face of Danger
In autumn of 1855 Catherine and David Maynard moved to Port Madison where David Maynard had been appointed Indian Agent. His job was to convince the Duwamish people to move permanently from Seattle to Port Madison. Port Madison is the farthest north point on Bainbridge Island, around Agate Point and directly across the narrow Agate Pass from Old Man House/Suquamish. During this period the Maynards initially lived in the woods without even a tent. Eventually David sent for lumber and built them shelter.
On January 25, 1856, Catherine is said to have risked her life to warn the settlers in Seattle of an imminent Indian attack. As recounted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on October 21, 1906, Chief Seattle sent word to David Maynard that Chief Leschi and his men were preparing to attack:
“Dr. Maynard and his wife discust (sic) the situation … For protection, the city had the United States ship Decatur, commanded by Captain Guert Gansevoort. Someone must warn Capt. Gansevoort and the people of Seattle. Dr. Maynard, as agent, must remain at his post. There was no choice but for the frail woman to row across the Sound.The canoe pushed off from West Point and continued on into Elliott Bay. Catherine boarded the Decatur, delivered the warning to Captain Gansevoort, and immediately started back through the storm toward Port Madison. She feared that if she were not home by morning her absence would alert the natives that Gansevoort had been warned.
"Trusted Indians were called into consultation. In the darkness of early evening, hastened by gathering storm clouds, a narrow Indian canoe was gotten ready on the beach. Sally, the daughter of old Chief Kitsap, and a cousin of Angeline, was put in charge and under her were five other women and one man.
"As the canoe was shoved off from the beach with Mrs. Maynard as its sole passenger, the gale seemed to increase in strength … the strength of the gale stranded the canoe upon West Point [in 2004 the site of the West Point sewage plant in Magnolia]. As the keel grated on the beach voices were heard on shore and the party found themselves surrounded by hostile Indians. Mrs. Maynard crouched at the bottom of the canoe and Sally threw matting over her.
The captors examined the party, recognized them and let them pass. 'What is under that matting?' asked one.
'Clams,' said Sally.”
Thomas Prosch wrote: “It was real heroism that led Mrs. Maynard to doubly risk her life at this time ... That she was entirely successful is one of the happy events in the history of Seattle ... . Few women would have been equal to the demand, and not many men. A full measure of credit should be awarded to her by the community she then so faithfully served” (Prosch, 75-77).
This story was retold many times in various newspaper reports over the years and may include bits of both fact and legend. It was not without its detractors, particularly among the Denny family. It was from Arthur Denny’s early book Pioneer Days On Puget Sound that the tongue-in-cheek, finger-wagging judgment of David Maynard’s drinking filtered into most early histories of Puget Sound. Denny’s granddaughter Roberta Frye Watt, cast aspersions delicately:
“An account of how Mrs. Maynard ‘saved Seattle’ by bringing the news of the coming attack from Port Madison to the Decatur in a canoe is discredited by many old-timers who were in a position to know the facts. Prosch, however, who came to know Mrs. Maynard very well, gives the story as authentic. One version of it, and a very probable one, is that Mrs. Maynard did make such a night ride, but that her warning was only one of many reports brought in during those days previous to the attack” (Four Wagons West, 251).
Others who may have brought warnings include Chief Seattle, Henry Yesler, David Maynard, and Arthur Denny himself.
Farming and Starving
When the Maynards returned from Port Madison they traded the unplatted portion of their claim with Charles Terry for land on Alki Point. They farmed the Alki land somewhat haphazardly for six years. “There, in a fine clapboard house with a wonderful view of the Sound, (David) and Catherine almost starved” (Morgan, 52).
What they had, they shared with the many Indians who found their land a natural stopping point during canoe travel. It is during this period that Catherine is said to have planted the region’s first dandelion seeds. Dandelions were (and sometimes still are) used medicinally for their diuretic, laxative, and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also be fermented into dandelion wine.
In 1863 the Maynards returned home from a short trip to find that their house had burned to the ground. The farming experiment over, they moved back to the by-then bustling town of Seattle. They lived on 1st Avenue S between Main and Jackson.
On December 15, 1863, David and Catherine reopened the Seattle Hospital. Catherine had charge of the “lying-in apartment,” a room set aside for childbirth. The other room of the tiny hospital was a pharmacy and notions counter. According to The Seattle Times, “The patients always called Mother Maynard their angel” (July 4, 1896) The Maynards treated many injured loggers without charge, “and other persons who were not able to pay for their care at other places” (The Seattle Daily Times, October 23, 1906). They also treated the local Indians, something that cannot be said of all Seattle’s early physicians.
Claims and Counter-Claims
The circumstances surrounding David Maynard’s donation land claim (made while estranged from but still legally married to Lydia) and the fact that Catherine and David were not married by December 1, 1851, meant that Catherine never had clear title to land in the Puget Sound area.
The Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 allowed white male citizens over the age of 21 to claim 320 acres in Oregon Territory (then including Seattle). If married before December 1, 1851, the wife could claim her own 320 acres. The historical waters on this point are very murky and Lydia’s appearance in March 1872, demanding her portion of the land makes them murkier still. (Lydia lived with Catherine and David during her visit to Seattle, a situation that raised some local eyebrows.)
Lydia’s lawyers stopped just short of accusing David of committing fraud:
“How can it be said that the wifeship of Lydia could be used on April 3rd, 1852, in order to take 640 acres of land, and then in December following, that wifeship repudiated, with the design of investing a second wife with the property rights of the first? Such a proposition is too monstrous for even the Attorneys who resist Lydia’s claim. No one is bold enough to claim that Catherine can take” (Puget Sound Dispatch, April 12, 1872).
The fact that 260 of the 640 acres in question had been traded to Charles Terry for the land on Alki Point, and that Terry had subsequently sold off many lots from those acres to other settlers, created a legal tangle that dragged on in the courts for 30 years. The upheaval and expense to the citizens of Seattle was significant. In the end the courts awarded Maynard his own 320 acres and disallowed both Lydia and Catherine’s claims on the other 320 acres. Catherine inherited what little remained of David’s 320 acres upon his death. David Maynard’s donation land claim held nearly all of Seattle’s commercial businesses during the first 20 years of the city’s history.
David Maynard died on March 13, 1873. The Weekly Intelligencer reported that Maynard “had been hopelessly ill for a long time past with a disease of the liver” (March 17, 1873). Drinking almost certainly contributed to his death.
A generous man, David Maynard has gone down in city histories as a very human doctor, reluctant to send bills to patients who could ill afford them. Thomas Prosch writes that Catherine was “always sure there was no better man on earth” (60).
Widow Once More
In 1875-1976, Catherine opened a room of her home to the public as a free reading room. The room was well-utilized and the example Catherine set in establishing a need for such a “third place” facility led to the eventual establishment of the Seattle YMCA.
By 1876, according to Prosch, Catherine’s “health had become weakened” (78). The exact meaning of this euphemism is unclear, but it caused Catherine to leave Seattle. From 1876 to 1896 she “dwelt alternately at Ellensburg, Medical Lake and Seattle, making her trips over the mountains on horseback as though she were a young woman of 20 to 40 instead of the mature woman of 60 to 80” (Prosch, 78).
Indians had long valued Medical Lake for having healing properties. In 1877, the area began to be developed as a health spa. It attracted people seeking relief from rheumatism and other ailments.
Ellensburg was home to Catherine’s nephew, dairy farmer Mike Simmons, his wife Lou, and children Lee and Ruby. Catherine’s life while in Kittitas County was undoubtedly diverse. As simply “Auntie Maynard” she is among those listed as having located a seam of coal close to Cle Elum (An Illustrated History of Klickitat, Yakima and Kittitas Counties, 249). Edna M. Fleming, who knew Catherine during this period, describes her in Ah, Kittitas!:
“A half legendary figure, known as Aunty Maynard, an old friend of my mother’s came from the Sound occasionally to renew old friendships and revisit the scenes of her many exploits. When I first saw her she was old and shrunken, and wore black, and trembled a bit when she walked. Only her eyes had a lively gleam in them, like pools shimmering in the moonlight. An angel of mercy, my mother called her ... Long before the iron horse across the Cascades was more than a hazy dream, this indomitable woman shuttled back and forth between Seattle and our valley on horseback, often traveling alone, riding astride when ladies were supposed to drape their ‘limbs’ gracefully around the pommels of sidesaddles. She broke trails, plunged into huge snowdrifts, and urged her shying horse into swollen streams, till the horse scrambled out breathless but safe on the opposite bank” (60).Kittitas Valley historian Leta May Smith describes Catherine Maynard during this period:
"A famous nurse, nothing ever frightened her. She brought babies into the world, she amputated a man's leg, she set broken bones and removed a bullet from some luckless cowboy. She rode horseback across the Snoqualmie Trail in 1878 and 1879. She made many trips over that trail with her medical supplies in a saddlebag. She rode the trails whenever and wherever she was needed, and she rode alone. Nothing frightened her" (p. 128).Catherine Maynard also operated what an October 18, 1887, newspaper advertisement described as "The Maynard Hospital" near Ellensburg. The advertisement read:
"This private institution is now open for the reception of patients. The charge for board and lodging is placed at $4 per week. This hospital is one mile from Ellensburgh on the Leonhard bridge road. It is fitted up with comfortable beds and the apartments are well ventilated with the upper and lower window sash movable. Mrs. Dr. Maynard is the owner and superintendent of all business connected with it" (Frisbee Scrapbooks).Exactly what kind of medical services Mrs. Dr. Maynard offered at her hospital are unclear, but it was probably a lying-in hospital for childbirth or perhaps a convalescent facility.
Catherine Maynard's Last Years
During the final decade of her life, Catherine returned to live in Seattle full time. She was given a small cottage to live on by Major Granville Haller (1819-1897) on the northeast corner of his large estate. The address was 1223 Cherry, now (2005) part of the Swedish Medical Center campus. She had a very small income from the few remaining rental properties located on Doc’s original land claim. Her main source of support was the proceeds from her fine needlework and hand knit socks, slippers, and mittens. She did her own shopping, met with friends, and went to church. Most Seattleites had come to value and revere her as an important pioneer.
Although Catherine agreed to occasional newspaper interviews and actively helped Thomas Prosch to prepare his biography of herself and her husband, she sometimes took refuge in eccentricity. Prosch reports that when a stranger arrived uninvited and wanted to get to know her, Catherine told her, “I do not feel like talking, and I may as well tell you that if you insist upon talking to me every word I say in reply will cost you 25 cents, and it will take a short time only to run up a charge against you of $25” (80). She told The Seattle Times on July 4, 1896, that she was growing a third set of teeth.
During the last few years of her life Catherine had help from a live-in companion, a Mrs. Hill.
Catherine’s work with Prosch on the preparation of his biography David S. Maynard and Catherine T. Maynard would prove invaluable to future historians. Catherine gave Prosch access to her late husband’s Oregon Trail-era diary, which he reproduced in full. Clarence Bagley commended the “valuable personal aid” Catherine gave Prosch, and credits the Maynard book as one of only three “original sources extant pertaining to our early history” (History of King County, Washington, Vol. I, 98)
Prosch’s book was published in pamphlet form in June and July, 1906. On October 15, Catherine spent several hours out in the cold wet weather looking for an available house to live in on the Maynard donation claim. The next morning she suffered a stroke. Four days later, on October 20, 1906, she died. She was 90 years old.
A Long Life Remembered
On October 23, 1906, a funeral service was held at her home. The minister, Rev. A. L. Chapman, accompanied the funeral procession to First Christian Church at Broadway and Olive streets, “where was gathered one of the largest assemblages of people ever seen in Seattle on such an occasion” (Prosch, 82).
“Tears streamed down the faces of many pioneers” who filled the sanctuary (Seattle P-I, October 24, 1906). The Reverend George Whitworth, 91, president of the Washington Pioneer Association, “spoke most feelingly of his late friend, whom he had known for half a century, and dwelt particularly upon her services to the people of Seattle during the Indian Wars of 1855-6” (Prosch, 82).
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, “Before her death Mrs. Maynard had planned for her casket, the dress in which she would be buried, and made with her own hands the pillow on which her head will rest” (October 21, 1906).
Catherine Maynard was buried next to her husband in Lake View Cemetery. The land upon which she was buried was part of Maynard’s original donation land claim. Among the many floral tributes, “one of the finest floral offerings was from the King County Medical Society, which took this method of publicly recognizing the fact that she was the widow of Seattle’s first physician, and further, that she herself was the first woman here to engage in hospital work” (Prosch, 83).
Catherine Maynard survived her colorful second husband by 33 years, and lived an equally colorful if less well-documented long life. Her headstone reads:
Catherine Troutman Maynard
One of the founders of Seattle
July 19, 1816
October 20, 1906
She Did What She Could