Duvall -- Thumbnail History

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 11/04/1998
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 153
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The present townsite of Duvall was once the hillside property homesteaded in the 1870s by Francis and James Duvall. At the time when the Duvalls were felling trees, the original townsite, called Cherry Valley, was located a half mile downstream along the banks of the Snoqualmie River.


Many of the first settlers were Civil War veterans who had received homesteading rights. The valley and wooded hillsides, with a river connection to Snohomish and Everett, was an ideal place for logging. The first Cherry Valley school, built in 1879, was constructed from the wood of a single log. Until 1890, the river was the main lifeline to Puget Sound. Trees were felled and transported down the river, and goods were transported upriver by steam paddle-wheel boats. After much of the land had been cleared, logging companies moved in, bringing with them rails and roads. The abundance of jobs in the logging camps caused Cherry Valley, like many other river communities, to grow.

By this time, cattle and dairy farms dotted the fertile valley. Many farm families built on higher ground to accommodate the flooding, which occurs almost every year. In 1892, the Valley House was built as a hotel for travelers. Soon after, a Methodist church and a new school were constructed. In 1905, a swing bridge was built across the river, which later opened up stage travel to and from the ferries on Lake Washington, located 20 miles away. In 1909, the Great Northern and Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroads began building a line along the river, but the town of Cherry Valley was in the way. After much negotiation, the railroad agreed to move the town to its present location and for the next year homes and businesses were moved south and up the hill. Some of these buildings, such as Hix Market and the Grange Hall, are still standing today.

No More Bailing Out the Graves

The move proved to be beneficial for many residents. The townsite was conveniently close to the river, but the river flooded almost every year. Flooding affected even sections of the original townsite that weren't in the floodplain. The Cherry Valley Cemetery, which was moved to the neighboring community of Novelty, was often so wet from runoff that graves had to be bailed out minutes before interment. The "new" town was briefly named Cosgrove (after Governor Samuel G. Cosgrove, who had died in office after serving only one day), but was soon changed to Duvall.

The migration of the town caused a real estate boom. A train depot was built, streets were laid out and sidewalks were built. Many new businesses started up, including a movie house and a drug store. A new school was built for 80 students. A year later, 139 children were attending classes. By 1911, four hotels accommodated travelers and the town newspaper, the Duvall Citizen, had started publication.

On January 6, 1913, the town of Duvall incorporated. Some believe that the town was founded in order to open a saloon, for which city status was required. Whatever the reason, local citizens enjoyed their new status. Lon Brown, Duvall's first mayor, also played in Duvall's band. On occasion, the band would perform on top of the big rock located in the ravine of what is now Taylor Park. The locals would sit on logs and listen in the filtered sunlight below.

Snow, Flood, and Fire

Although flooding in the valley no longer presented as much of a problem to homeowners, the elements still took their toll. In 1915 three feet of snow collapsed many barns and homes. In 1916, 40 inches of snow and six inches of ice caused extensive damage. Natural disasters were not the only setbacks. In 1925, fire destroyed four buildings in the heart of town. In 1930, another fire leveled the Forest Inn, a grand Bavarian structure that had been a landmark.

But even with problems, Duvall prospered well into the 1920s, until logging operations, then controlled by the Weyerhaeuser Company, started to fall off. By the time the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the town was well established and was able to hunker down and tough it out. Dairy farming became the chief economy for the community. In 1936, the railroad closed the depot, but by then roads had become the main route for transportation. Years before, a more modern bridge had replaced the swing bridge. In 1951, a third bridge was built at a cost of $400,000.

With Change, Reminders of a Bygone Era

In 1955, Ray Burhen bought the train depot, which he moved onto the other side of the railbed. He later donated the depot to the City of Duvall, and it was moved to Depot Park. The last train through Duvall blew her whistle in 1973.

Duvall moved slowly during most of the past half-century, much to the pleasure of many long-time residents. Water service from the Seattle system didn't arrive until 1962, and some residents still rely on Artesian wells. The first stoplight in Duvall was installed in 1995. As the town entered the 2000s, development was on the rise. Many new homes and three malls were built, as the boundaries of Seattle's suburban ring stretched farther and farther into the county. Still, much of old Duvall history can still be seen and experienced. Many older buildings have been restored and refurbished. Landmarks from days gone by, like the Dougherty Farmstead (a National Historic Landmark) and the big rock, can still be found. 


Clarence Bagley, The History of King County, Washington (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929); Also see: Don Funk Jist Cogitatin’: Stories of Duvall's Past (Snohomish: Duvall Historical Society, 1989). Additional information from the Duvall Historical Society. Note: This entry was corrected on June 9, 2010, and updated on January 6, 2013.

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