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Auburn beginnings: Slaughter Post Office opens on January 21, 1867.

HistoryLink.org Essay 388 : Printer-Friendly Format

On January 21, 1867, the Slaughter Post Office opens. The same day the White River and Black River (later renamed Renton) post offices open as well. Joseph Gibson is appointed postmaster of Slaughter. (The post office did not operate from October 23, 1868 to December 27, 1869.)

A Farming Community

Slaughter was a small community serving the nearby farmers. Levi W. Ballard homesteaded the area about 1866 and named the post office Slaughter, in honor of Lieutenant W. A. Slaughter, who was shot and killed in the area by Indians during the 1855-1856 "Indian War."

Joseph Gibson and later Alexander S. Hughes operated the post office out of their residences. Hughes was also the town physician. Starting in 1870, the mail was delivered on horseback once a week.

Levi W. Ballard, the original homesteader of the town, moved the post office to his general store in August 1878. Ballard ran the only general store in town. In 1880 the town supported two physicians, a blacksmith, an architect, an engineer, a nurseryman, and a dressmaker.

The Slaughter Boom of the Eighties

In 1884, Slaughter claimed a population of 20 and mail was delivered twice a week until the railroad line started regular service. The population jumped from 25 in 1886 to an estimated 300 the following year. A probable reason for the dramatic increase in population was better railroad service. In late 1886, Matthew H. Conners operated the post office out of his hotel.

In 1893 citizens successfully petitioned the Washington State Legislature to change name of Slaughter to Auburn. On September 8, 1893, the name changed to Auburn. John S. Porter was the postmaster at the time of the name change. He distributed the mail from the ground floor of a two-story residential building on Cedar Street.

Auburn is located 20 miles south of Seattle six miles south of Kent, and was situated along four major railroad lines in the Green River Valley.

Guy Reed Ramsey, "Postmarked Washington, 1850-1960," Microfilm (Olympia: Washington State Library, February, 1966), 557-559, 646-649; Henry G. Langley, The Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78 (San Francisco: Henry G. Langley, Publisher, 1875); L.M. McKenney & Co., Pacific Coast Directory, for 1880-81 ... of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, and British Columbia (San Francisco: L.M. McKenney & Co., Publishers, 1880); R. L. Polk & Co., Oregon Washington and Idaho Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-5 (Chicago: R.L. Polk & Co. and A.C. Danser, 1884); R. L. Polk & Co., Oregon, Washington and Idaho Gazetteer and Business Directory 1886-7 (Portland, OR: R L Polk & Co., 1886); Thompson & Company, Historical and Descriptive Review of the Industries of Seattle, Wash. T'y (Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Stationary and Printing Company, 1887), 42; Edmond S. Meany, Origin of Washington Geographic Names (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1923).

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Cedar Street in Auburn, post office on left, 1900s

Auburn's first store, ca. 1890
Courtesy Clarence Bagley, History of King County

Main Street, Auburn, ca. 1900
Courtesy Clarence Bagley, History of King County

Lieutenant and Mrs. William Slaughter, ca. 1854
Courtesy Pollard, A History of the State of Washington

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