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Luther Collins Party, first King County settlers, arrive at mouth of Duwamish River on September 14, 1851.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5390 : Printer-Friendly Format

On September 14, 1851, Luther M. Collins (1813-1860), Henry Van Asselt (1817-1902), Jacob Maple (or Mapel) (1798-1884) and his son Samuel Maple (or Mapel) (1827-1880) arrive at the mouth of the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay in the future King County and begin exploring the area with an eye to selecting a Donation Land Claim.

Proposed Earlier Arrival Date for Collins Party Probably Inaccurate

There is one account, that of Eli Mapel, that puts the Collins party settlement on the Duwamish River three months earlier. Eli traveled west over the Oregon Trail and joined his father and brother in the Duwamish River valley in October 1852. Fifty years later, Eli Mapel published an autobiographical account in a local newspaper in which he relates that Collins, Van Asselt, and his father Jacob and brother Samuel "were the first settlers who located here -- June 22, 1851."

Yet it is doubtful that the Collins party reached the Duwamish River Valley and Puget Sound that early. Evidence suggests that in early July 1851, at least two of these homesteaders were farther south, in Oregon. In March 1855, Samuel Maple stated in a Donation Land Claim filing that he arrived in Oregon Territory on July 1, 1851. This probably refers to the date he entered Oregon Territory while traveling north from the California gold fields. The Samuel Maple party included Jacob Maple and Luther Collins and perhaps Henry Van Asselt and his group of returning miners who joined forces somewhere between California and the Columbia River.

Moreover, two different biographical sketches place Henry Van Asselt in Oregon in early July 1851, and imply that Collins and the two Maples were with him. Finally, a letter dated January 1, 1880, published in The West Shore in 1884, and signed by King County pioneers Henry Van Asselt, William Bell, Henry Yesler, Carson Boren, and Arthur and David Denny, gives a chronology of settlement in King County. This letter states: "September 16, 1851 -- Henry Van Assalt, Jacob Mapel and L. M. Collins selected claims on Duwamish River ...."

History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington (Portland, OR: North Pacific History Company, 1889), 612-613; H. K. Hines, An Illustrated History of the State of Washington (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1893), 522-523; Thomas W. Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle From 1850 to 1897." Typescript dated 1900-1901, Seattle Public Library, Seattle, Washington, 22-23. For the argument against the June arrival date, see Greg Lange, "King County's First White Settlers," Metropedia Library, Seattle/King County HistoryLink.org (www.historylink.org).

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Early Seattle claim map, including the then-winding Duwamish River, 1850s

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