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Issaquah Beginnings: Squak Post Office opens on May 20, 1870.
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The opening of a post office is an important marker of the
beginning of a community. On May 20, 1870, the Squak Post Office is
established. William Pickering is the first postmaster. The name Squak is an
attempt to pronounce an Indian name sometimes written "Is-qu-ah" and sometimes
said to mean "snake." The town, located on the east side of Lake
Washington, 15 miles east-southeast of Seattle, will later be called Englewood,
Olney, and Gilman before inhabitants settle on another variant of "Is-qu-ah"
-- Issaquah -- in 1895 and the legislature makes it official in 1899.
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 how some settlers
pronounced an Indian name for the area, "Is-qu-ah," which some
accounts record as meaning "snake" (other accounts say it meant
"little stream" or referred to the call of the northern crane which
was common in the area). 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 brothers Ingebright and Lars Wold were
shoemakers. The Wolds also planted a half acre of hops. There were also two
Mail was delivered to Squak by Clarence Bagley who brought
it by horseback from Seattle along 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 later wrote of
the settlement, "When the soil had been placed under cultivation, potatoes
were raised for human food, and turnips and rutabagas for feed" (Bagley,
Olney -- or 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 called the plat by 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 U.S. Postal Service
declined to accept the name Gilman because of its similarity to Gilmer, a town
in Klickitat County, and on January 31, 1889, the post office was changed to
Olney. However the town was incorporated in 1892 as Gilman. Gilman essentially
became a coal town.
The postmaster at the time of the name change was George
Parks and the "Olney" 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.
On June 10, 1895, the town renamed itself a final time, as Issaquah.
Henry Hunter was then postmaster, and he distributed mail from his drug store.
The new name, another variant of "Is-qu-ah," had
been growing in favor for some time. On February 2, 1899, the Washington State
Legislature officially changed the name to Issaquah. The population of Issaquah
in 1900 was 1,060.
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; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of
Washington State History,
"Issaquah -- Thumbnail History" (by Alan J. Stein), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed January
Note: This file was revised and expanded in May
1999, and revised further on January 29, 2015.
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