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Snoqualmie -- Thumbnail History Essay 292 : Printer-Friendly Format

Snoqualmie, a rural community founded early in the Puget Sound region's history, is located about 30 miles east of Seattle along the Snoqualmie River just above Snoqualmie Falls.

The three forks of the river converge near the town to form Snoqualmie Falls, a spectacular 276-foot waterfall. The Snoqualmie tribe considers the falls to contain powerful magic for peace. The tribe has always been a peaceful tribe -- perhaps too peaceful. When settlers first arrived in the 1850s, Chief Patkanim sided with them against warrior tribes. It was Chief Patkanim who signed the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855, which ceded all of the tribe's land to the United States. In return, the Americans never repaid them and never gave them a reservation. Many of the Snoqualmie ended up living in poverty on land that was once theirs.

Father of the Snoqualmie Valley

The signing of the treaty did open up the land for homesteaders. The Kellogg brothers are thought to be the first white settlers in the Snoqualmie Valley, but they only stayed for a few years. Jeremiah Borst is considered by many to be the first permanent settler near the falls. He arrived in 1858. He had made enough money in the California gold rush to move to Washington state and buy land, which he did with fervor. By the 1880s, he was far and away the wealthiest man in the valley.

Borst had three consecutive Indian wives, the last of whom was Kate Kanim Smith, a relative of Patkanim. She was also a distant relative of Chief Seattle. Kate was very intelligent and was well respected by many in the surrounding communities. Over the years she made many friends and always enjoyed discussing the many changes she had witnessed over her lifetime.

More Settlers Arrive

As Jerry Borst was buying up land, so were many others. The lumber along the mountainsides provided jobs for loggers and the valley was profitable for farmers. Many tales are told about Lucinda Fares, a niece of Borst. "Lucindy" was a large woman with a heart of gold. Many travelers stayed overnight at her farmhouse, partaking in her pioneer hospitality. One time, she adopted a young boy who was abandoned by his parents while passing through.

Since Lucindy weighed almost 350 pounds, milking cows on her farm proved to be quite a chore for her. Instead of moving from cow to cow, she trained all 30 of them to come to her when called by name. Pioneers remembered the sight of each cow lining up one after the other to be milked.

Pioneer Life

Life in the rural community was a challenge, especially for young children. Many children received education from people with dubious credentials. The first teacher in the area, Asa Storey, taught out of his wretched shack, and his own children were described as wild things of the woods. The second teacher, Al Fiske, once insisted to his pupils that two times zero was two, three times zero was three, and so on. The students rebelled. They got up, walked out of class, and went home. Another teacher left after young girls in the class soundly beat him up for whipping a young boy.

During the 1880s, hop farming was very successful in the valley. Many hop-pickers were Indians who came from all over the Northwest to work at the hop ranch. Lumber mills were another successful industry, surviving long after aphids wiped out the hop crops near the turn of the century.

Growth and Expansion

The village of Snoqualmie was incorporated on June 7, 1889, about the same time that train service arrived in the upper valley. The first train was an excursion train, indicative of the area's charm as a tourist destination. Accessibility to Puget Sound also made Snoqualmie a desirable place to live. In 1870, fewer than 50 people inhabited the entire valley. By 1900, 429 residents lived in the town of Snoqualmie.

Throughout the twentieth century, the lumber industry continued to operate, but became less important to the economic health of the community. Proximity to the spectacular waterfall and to Snoqualmie pass made the community a popular stop for visitors, either by train or by road.

When Highway 10 (precursor to today’s I-90) was built in the 1940s, it bypassed Snoqualmie and the town initially suffered a loss of tourism, but over time community leaders shored up the image of the town as a worthy destination for local travelers. Even without the rail line, which was abandoned in 1974, Snoqualmie remains a pleasant, peaceful community, due in part to the magical powers of the falls.

Clarence Bagley, The History of King County (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929). Also see: Ada S. Hill, A History of the Snoqualmie Valley (Snoqualmie, WA: Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society, 1970); Margaret McKibben Corliss Fall City in the Valley of the Moon (Fall City, WA: Margaret McKibben Corliss, 1972).

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Major Support for 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

This essay made possible by:
Rivers In Time Project
King County
Seattle Public Utilities
Seattle City Light

Snoqualmie, Mt. Si in the distance, 1910s

Northeastern King County
Map by Chris Goodman

Downtown Snoqualmie, train depot on the right, 1890s
Courtesy Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum

Jeremiah Borst (1830-1890)
Courtesy Clarence Bagley

Kate Kanim Borst (1855-1938)
Courtesy Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum

Lucinda (Collins) Fares and one of her cows
Courtesy Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum

Snoqualmie River, taken from the railroad bridge, August 6, 2005
Photo by Stephen Reier

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