The first non-Indian families arrive at the new settlement of Port Townsend on February 23, 1852.

  • By Kit Oldham
  • Posted 2/24/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5289

On February 23, 1852, the families of Loren and Lucinda Hastings and Francis and Sophia Pettygrove arrive at the site of Port Townsend with another family and several single men. They are the first non-Indian families to settle in the new town that Hastings and Pettygrove, along with Alfred Plummer and Charles Bachelder, are founding on the Olympic Peninsula in what is now Jefferson County.

Francis W. Pettygrove (d. 1887) was a merchant from Maine, who had sailed to Oregon around Cape Horn in 1843. He was one of the founders of Portland, Oregon, which he named after the city of Portland in his home state. Pettygrove met and became friends with Loren B. Hastings (1814-1881) soon after the Hastings reached Portland overland via the Oregon Trail in 1847. In 1849, the two men followed the gold rush crowds to California, where they earned money in trading. They returned to Portland, but decided to resettle with their families in the Puget Sound region, in part because the Portland climate was considered unhealthy for Lucinda Hastings.

A Two-Person Settlement

In October 1851, Hastings and Pettygrove traveled by foot to Steilacoom, located on the southern reaches of Puget Sound in what is now Pierce County. There they hired canoes and set out up the Sound to find a homestead site. At the north end of Puget Sound, where it meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca, they found a one-cabin settlement on the beach of a natural harbor that had been named Port Townsend by British explorer George Vancouver. The cabin’s two inhabitants were Alfred Plummer and Charles Bachelder, who the previous April had staked claims in the area, called Kah Tai or Ka-tal by its Clallam inhabitants.

The four men all had the same aims in mind, and agreed to join forces to establish a town on the site, which they called Port Townsend like the harbor. After staking their claims, Pettygrove and Hastings went back to get their families in Portland. Hastings bought a schooner, the Mary Hastings, with money he had earned in the gold rush, and advertised for settlers in the new town. The Hastings and Pettygroves were joined on the schooner by one other family and four men, including David Shelton (1812-1897), who later founded Shelton, Mason County.

The Families Arrive

The Mary Hastings reached Port Townsend on February 23, 1852, and the arrivals were met by Plummer, Bachelder, and many of the Clallams who lived nearby. The Clallams requested a conference with the settlers, seeking assurance that they would be paid for the land they let the newcomers settle. Plummer promised that the United States government would pay, and Pettygrove provided needles, fishhooks, mirrors, and other trade items.

Hastings and Pettygrove built log cabins for their families, and the little settlement grew steadily. By the end of the year the townsite was platted, a post office was established, and Jefferson County was created, with Port Townsend as the County seat. Bachelder soon left, but the other three founders all played roles in the new town and county governments. Pettygrove served as postmaster and superintendent of schools, Hastings was variously sheriff, probate judge, and county commissioner, and Plummer became county auditor.


Sources: Edmond S. Meany, Origin of Washington Geographic Names (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1923), 228, 268; Murray Morgan, The Last Wilderness (New York: Viking Press, 1955), 35-36; City of Dreams ed. by Peter Simpson (Port Townsend: Bay Press, 1986), 96-100, 142; William D. Welsh, A Brief Historical Sketch of Port Townsend (Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce, 14th printing, revised, 1973), 6-7.

Related Topics:   Cities & Towns | Pioneers

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