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Denny party lands at Alki Point near future Seattle on November 13, 1851.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5392 : Printer-Friendly Format

On November 13, 1851, the Denny Party lands at Alki Point, not far from the site of the future Seattle.

The Denny Party had traveled over the Oregon Trail from Illinois to Portland, but found the Willamette Valley already too crowded for their taste. David Denny (1832-1903) and John Low (1820-1888) were sent to scout Puget Sound, and met Lee Terry (1818-1862) on the way. They arrived at the mouth of the Duwamish River on September 25, 1851, and Low and Terry staked claims along Alki Beach three days later. Low returned to Portland with a note from David Denny urging his older brother Arthur Denny (1822-1899) to "come at once."

Arthur Denny, John Low, eight other adults, and 12 children set sail aboard the schooner Exact and arrived on November 13 (a pylon at Alki Beach in West Seattle marks the event today).

They arrived to find the Low cabin still unfinished. David Denny was ill. Lee Terry had left to find a tool, and had not returned.

The Women Were Not Amused

The women of the party found the situation most discouraging. According to a member of the party, William Bell (1817-1887),

"[O]ur goods and chattles were sent ashore at near low tid on 13 of Nov 1851 near Noon. The Women and children of our party set to work to help get them above high tide then the ladys sat down on the loggs and took A Big Cry" (Bell).

The women were Mary Ann Denny, 28 (wife of Arthur, with three children); Lydia Low, 31 (wife of John, with four children); Mary Boren, 20 (wife of Carson, with one child); Sarah Ann Bell, 32 (wife of William with four children); and Louisa Boren, 24 (she was single and would marry David Denny).

Names and Ages of the Denny Party upon Their Arrival at Alki on November 13, 1851


  • Arthur A Denny, 29
  • Mary Ann Denny, 28
  • Louisa Catherine (Kate) Denny, 7
  • Margaret Lenora (Lenora) Denny, 4
  • Rolland H. Denny, 6 weeks

  • John N. Low, 31
  • Lydia Low, 31
  • Mary L. Low, 8
  • Alonzo Low, 6
  • John V. Low, 4
  • Minerva Low, 2

  • Carson D. Boren, 26
  • Mary Boren, 20
  • Livonia Gertrude Boren, 11 months

  • William N. Bell, 34
  • Sarah Ann Bell, 32
  • Laura Keziah Bell, 8
  • Olive Julia Bell, 5
  • Mary Virginia (Virginia) Bell, 4
  • Alvina Lavina (Lavina) Bell, 9 months

    Single adults:

  • Louisa Boren, 24 
  • David T. Denny, 19 
  • Charles C. Terry, 23 (see note below)
  • Leander (Lee) Terry, 33 (see note below)

Most of the Denny Party relocated to the site of present-day Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle the following spring. Charles Terry (1828-1867) stayed behind and dubbed his claim in today's West Seattle as "New York." It was later dubbed "Alki," or "by and by" in the Chinook jargon.

William Bell, "Settlement of Seattle, 1878," P-B2, Hubert Howe Bancroft Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley: Microfilm Edition, Newspapers and Microforms, Reel No. 21, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, Washington; Clarence B. Bagley, History of Seattle (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1916) Vol. I, 17-32. Also see: Edmond. S. Meany, History of the State of Washington (New York: MacMillan, 1909); Gordon Newell, Westward to Alki (Seattle: Superior Publishing Co., 1977); Roberta Frye Watt, Four Wagons West (Portland, Or.: Binfords & Mort, 1931).
Note: This essay was corrected on December 5, 2005, and on July 12, 2015.

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Schooner Exact delivered the balance of the Denny Party to Alki Beach, November 13, 1851
Courtesy MOHAI

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