Washington Legislature designates Byrd's Mill Road as State Historical Road No. 1 in 1941.

  • By Cassandra Tate
  • Posted 11/03/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7120

In 1941, the Washington Legislature designates Byrd’s Mill Road -- the first legally established road in Washington -- as Washington State Historical Road No. 1. Byrd's Mill Road twisted through the Puyallup Valley in the southern Puget Sound area.

The road was named after Andrew Byrd (b. 1825), a native of Ohio who established a sawmill and grist mill on Chambers Creek near Fort Steilacoom in the early 1850s. Settlers throughout the Puyallup Valley used the narrow, twisting roadway to travel to and from the Steilacoom area. In 1852, the Oregon Territorial Legislature made Byrd’s Mill Road the first official road in what would become the state of Washington.

The road was scarcely wider than a wagon, but it served as an important arterial during the pioneer era. The Washington Territorial Legislature established it as a military road in 1854, one year after Washington was separated from the Oregon Territory (and the same year that Steilacoom became the first incorporated town in Washington). A number of settlers used the road to flee to safety at Fort Steilacoom during the Indian Wars of 1855.

The Washington Legislature commemorated the road by naming it Washington State Historical Road No. 1 in 1941. The route followed an intersection with Secondary State Highway No. 4D, in Puyallup, to an intersection with Primary State Highway No. 1, at South 84th Street near the southern city limits of Tacoma. From there, it followed the old pioneer road, across Chambers Creek to Puget Sound, at Steilacoom.


Walter Neary, “Steilacoom in History,” Town of Steilacoom website accessed November 3, 2004 (http://steilacoomhistory.org/names_places.htm); Washington Department of Highways, Forty Years With the Washington Department of Highways (1945), available online at (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/research/History/40years.htm).

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