< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >
African American pioneers John and Mary Conna settle in Federal Way area in 1883.
HistoryLink.org Essay 262
: Printer-Friendly Format
In 1883, African American pioneers John Conna (1836-1921) and Mary Conna (1840-1907) arrive in the Federal Way area and settle on their 157 acre homestead. John Conna becomes the first black political appointee in the history of Washington Territory.
The property was in the Panther Lake area between (1999 street names) 334th and 10th Avenue SW and 21st Avenue SW and 1st Avenue S. John Conna was a Civil War veteran and as such received with the claim two of the five years of required residency. In her history of the Tacoma area Winnifred Owens writes, "He came to Tacoma in 1883 and became a wealthy real estate agent."
Republican Party leaders appointed Conna Assistant Sergeant at Arms of the 1889 Washington Territorial House of Representatives, making him the first black political appointee in the Washington Territory. In addition, he served as Sergeant at Arms of the Extraordinary Session of the Senate and at the regular session in 1890.
Horace Cayton, the prominent newspaper publisher, credited John Conna with framing the Public Accommodations Act of 1890, and lobbying for it. The Act entitled all citizens, including persons of color, to civil and legal rights such as access to accommodations at inns, theaters, restaurants, and public conveyances.
Esther Hall Mumford, Calabash: A Guide to the History, Culture, and Art of African Americans in Seattle and King County Washington (Seattle: Ananse Press, 1993), 47, 48; Esther Hall Mumford, Seattle's Black Victorians, 1852-1901 (Seattle: Ananse Press, 1980), 31, 184-185; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington, 1994), 43; Winnifred L. Olsen, Tacoma Beginnings (Tacoma: Tacoma School District, ca. 1969), p. 2; Tacoma Morning Globe Review, January 1, 1891; Douglas Q. Barnett (maternal grandson of John and Mary Conna) to Priscilla Long (senior editor, www.historylink.org), June 7, 2003.
Note: This essay was revised on June 9, 2003. The source for John Conna's birth date of June 20, 1836, is his death certificate.
Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay
Browse to Next Essay >
Government & Politics |
Black Americans |
Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that
encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both
HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any
reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this
Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For
more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact
the source noted in the image credit.
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided
By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins
| Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry
| 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle
| City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach
Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private
Sponsors and Visitors Like You