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Issaquah Beginnings: Squak (later Olney or Gilman, later Issaquah) Post Office opens on May 20, 1870.

HistoryLink.org Essay 422 : Printer-Friendly Format

On May 20, 1870, the Squak Post Office is established. William Pickering is the first postmaster.

On January 31, 1889, the name changed to Olney. At the time of this name change, George Parks was the postmaster. On June 10, 1895 the town renamed itself Issaquah. When the name changed to Issaquah, Henry Hunter was postmaster, and he distributed mail from his drug store. On February 2, 1899, an Act of the state legislature made the name Issaquah official.

Issaquah is located on the Eastside of Lake Washington, 15 miles east southeast of Seattle.

The History of Squak

L. B. Andrews discovered coal along the Squak River in the fall of 1862. However, mines were not developed until later when the railroad was built to transport the coal. The name Squak was the white man's pronunciation of the Indian name Is-qu-ah, meaning snake. Squak began as a farming community from which produce began to be shipped in 1867 or 1868. George W. Tibbetts ran a hotel, C. M. Brank served as the blacksmith, and the Wold Brothers (Ingebright and Lars) were shoemakers. The Wolds also planted a half acre of hops. There were also two teachers.

Mail was delivered to Squak by Clarence Bagley who brought it on horseback from Seattle on a route that went around the south end of Lake Washington. (Bagley was the future historian of Seattle and King County.) His mail delivery route took him three days round trip. Bagley writes, "When the soil had been placed under cultivation, potatoes were raised for human food, and turnips and rutabagas for feed" (Bagley, 765).

The History of Olney/Gilman

In 1887, Daniel Hunt Gilman established the Seattle Coal and Iron Co. in Squak. The area was then platted as Englewood by Ingebright Wold (1888), who disliked the name Squak and renamed the town after a variation of his own name. The Gilman mines opened, and the Seattle, Lakeshore & Eastern Railway reached the mines and called its station Gilman. The Post Office declined to accept the name Gilman because of its similarity to Gilmer, a town in Klickitat County. The Post Office was called Olney, but the town was incorporated in 1892 as Gilman. Gilman essentially became a coal town.

The first postmaster was George Parks and the post office was located in the office of the Gilman mines. Gilman had a blacksmith shop, a hotel, two saloons, a meat market, two sawmills, and a general store. In 1885, the population, according to Bagley, was 100. In 1890, 200 ballots were cast for King County sheriff (Bagley, 766, 768).

Issaquah

According to Clarence Bagley, in June 1895, the town was renamed Issaquah. This name, after the original Indian name Is-qu-ah, meaning snake, had been growing in favor for some time. On February 2, 1899, an Act of the Washington State Legislature changed the name officially to Issaquah. The population of Issaquah in 1900 was 1060 (Bagley, 768).

Sources:
Guy Reed Ramsey, "Postmarked Washington, 1850-1960," Microfilm (Olympia: Washington State Library, February, 1966), 560-561, 617, 655-656; Clarence Bagley, History of King County, Washington Vol. I, (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929), 283; Session Laws of the State of Washington for 1899 (Olympia: State Printer of Washington, 1899), 8; Tacoma Public Library, Northwest Room, Washington Place Names Database.
Note: This file was revised and expanded in May 1999.


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Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway Depot at Gilman (now Issaquah), ca. 1890



Coal miners' houses, Issaquah, 1913
Photo by Asahel Curtis, Courtesy UW Special Collections (Neg. No. 27804)


Issaquah, 1913
Courtesy UW Special Collections (Neg. A Curtis 27803)


 
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