June 30, 2016 – July 6, 2016
This week we celebrate the 4th of July and note some of the significant events that have occurred on that day in Washington history. On July 4, 1889, Joseph Pearsall staked the first mining claim in Monte Cristo, which led to a brief boom for the mountain community. On July 4, 1915, Bill Boeing reportedly took his first airplane ride. That same day, Samuel Hill dedicated the Pacific Highway at Blaine. Exactly three years later, Hill was on hand to help dedicate the Stonehenge replica at Maryhill.
Seattle alone has its share of noteworthy Independence Day events. In 1854, it was the day that Lake Union and Lake Washington were named, and on July 4, 1914, the Smith Tower was dedicated. On July 4, 1917, the Lake Washington Ship Canal was officially opened, and plans are underway to commemorate the canal's centennial in 2017.
HistoryLink is proud to join with other historical organizations and community groups in marking this important event. Currently HistoryLink Contributing Historian David Williams and Staff Historian Jennifer Ott are working on a book about the locks and canal, and starting in August -- 100 years after construction of the canal led to the lowering of Lake Washington -- look for the first of many events and programs related to this year-long commemoration. We'll keep you up to date on these activities in our newsletter, and in the meantime please enjoy this Centennial Kickoff video, produced by Vaun Raymond, which includes interviews with a few of our historians. And keep an eye out for more interviews with HistoryLink historians in upcoming episodes. (Image Courtesy White River Valley Museum)
This week in 1811, Canadian explorer David Thompson was quite a busy man. Having already visited with the Kalispel Indians on the Pend Oreille River a month earlier, Thompson made his way through the Colville Valley to Kettle Falls. Then, in the first week of July, he arrived at the mouth of the Sanpoil River. Over the next week, as he continued downriver while trying to determine if the Columbia River was a navigable trade route to the sea, Thompson recorded the first written descriptions of the local landscape.
Thompson was also the first outsider to make contact with and record descriptions of the Indians who lived along the river, meeting the Sanpoil on July 3, the Nespelem on July 4 and 5, and the Methow on July 6. Continuing downriver, Thompson met with the Sinkayuse and finally with the Wanapum, just before planting the British flag at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers.
News Then, History Now
Guiding Light: In the summer of 1788, English fur trader John Meares sailed along the Washington coast searching in vain for the San Roque River discovered a dozen years earlier by Bruno de Hezeta. He gave up on July 6, near the towering basalt column that served as Hezeta's landmark, and named it Cape Disappointment -- unaware that he was in the river's mouth. Today we know the river as the Columbia, and more than disappointment awaits any mariner who ignores nearby lighthouses.
Taking Flight: On July 2, 1902, hardened criminal Harry Tracy hijacked a boat from Olympia and made his way to King County. Less than a month earlier he had escaped from the Oregon Penitentiary with his friend David Merrill, whom he later shot in the back. Tracy eluded lawmen for more than a month as he cut a swath of terror throughout Washington.
Along the Shore: Two stalwarts of the Seattle waterfront celebrate anniversaries this week. On July 3, 1909, the fireboat Duwamish was launched, and it operated on Elliott Bay until being retired in 1985. The historic vessel is now moored on South Lake Union. And on July 3, 1920, Seattle's Naval Shore Station opened at the foot of Washington Street. The station is long gone, but the wrought-iron pergola that fronted it still stands, thanks to the efforts of the all-woman Committee of 33.
Up in the Mountains: On July 1, 1915, the Sunset Highway was dedicated through Snoqualmie Pass. This highway -- the precursor for what is now Interstate 90 -- followed the route of an old wagon road built between Seattle and Ellensburg in 1867.
Over the Waves: This week marks anniversaries for two UFOs (unusual floating objects), namely the futuristic ferry Kalakala, which entered service between Seattle and Bremerton on July 3, 1935, and the Lake Washington Floating Bridge, dedicated on July 2, 1940 -- one day after another local wonder, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, opened. The Kalakala was borrowed to make the final ceremonial ferry crossing of the Narrows, but the vessel would return for more serious duty after the bridge collapsed a few months later.
On an Island: On July 5, 1960, Mercer Island residents voted to incorporate the City of Mercer Island, which got off to a very strange start. The new city encompassed the entire island -- except the 70-acre business district. Property owners there, at odds with the island's rural residents, had already scheduled a vote to incorporate the separate Town of Mercer Island, providing themselves with greater control over issues related to urbanization. That effort succeeded a month after the first, creating an independent town within the City of Mercer Island boundaries. Although town and city shared some services, including the library, they each remained self-governing until their merger in 1970.
Quote of the Week
The form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.
Image of the Week
The Paradise Inn opened on Mount Rainier 99 years ago this week, on July 1, 1917.