Muckleshoots attack settlers along White River between Kent and Auburn on October 28, 1855.

  • By Walt Crowley and David Wilma
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • Essay 2008
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On Sunday morning, October 28, 1855, Indians of the Muckleshoot and Klickitat tribes under Nelson and Kanasket raid farms between present-day Kent and Auburn and kill nine settlers. These attacks follow skirmishing in Pierce County between Nisquallys and Territorial volunteers sent to arrest the Nisqually chiefs Leschi (1808-1858) and Quiemuth, who refused to remove to treaty reservations.

Suquamish Chief Kitsap (d. 1858) and other sympathetic Indians advised settlers to flee. A. L. Porter narrowly escaped a raid on his White River cabin on September 27, 1855. He spread the alarm to other settlers, who retreated to Seattle's blockhouse. But Acting Territorial Governor Charles H. Mason (1830-1859) had assured settlers that there was no danger and settlers returned to their claims.

On October 22, 1855, the Nisqually chiefs met with Mason and they affirmed their position that they could not and would not live on the reservations provided in the Medicine Creek Treaty they had signed the prior December. A settler then wrote to Mason alleging that Leschi was organizing Indians to war against the whites. Reports and rumors of Indian attacks spread throughout the territory. Mason ordered Territorial volunteer Captain Charles H. Eaton and his 18 Mounted Rangers to seize Leschi and Quiemuth. The Nisquallys saw this as a hostile act and fled on October 25. Leschi joined warriors from the Klickitat and Muckleshoot tribes who had gathered  after fighting broke out between the Yakamas and U.S. Army troops east of the Cascades.

Early on Sunday morning, raiders broke down cabin doors and assaulted settlers. The victims of the White River raid were William H. Brannan, wife and child; Harry N. Jones, wife, and hired hand Enos Cooper; and George E. King, wife, and a child. A second King child, George, was abducted but returned to Fort Steilacoom the following spring. Three Jones children were spared on the order of Muckleshoot Chief Nelson, and they carried news of the attack to Seattle.

That same morning in Thurston County, a settler named Clark was ambushed while attending church services at Eaton Schoolhouse. Other settlers fought off the attack.

Many innocent Indians later suffered for the incident when the territorial government offered friendly tribes, notably the Snoqualmies, a bounty for the severed heads of suspected renegades. Tensions in King County intensified over the following weeks. Seattle Indian Agent Dr. David S. Maynard (1808-1873) arranged for the quick relocation of local Indians to the new Suquamish reservation on the western shore of Puget Sound across from Seattle.


Clarence Bagley, History of Seattle (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1916); History of King County, Washington (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929); Murray Morgan, Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle (New York: Viking Press, 1951); Edmond Meany, History of the State of Washington (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909); W. P. Bonney, History of Pierce County Washington (Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1927), 162-184; Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown, Indians of the Pacific Northwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981), 150-152; Charles Wilkinson, Messages from Frank;s Landing: A Story of Salmon, Treaties, and the Indian Way (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000), 14-18; the online encyclopedia of Washington State History, "A Story of Pioneering," (by N. V. Sheffer) (accessed May 2, 2007). Note: There are slight discrepancies among the versions of this incident given by Meany, Bagley in 1916 and 1929, and Morgan. This account relies on Bagley's 1929 History of King County, which quotes a letter to Ezra Meeker by survivor Dr. John King on pages 167-170. Further Note: This essay was extensively revised on May 5, 2007, and emended on April 20, 2015 and July 1, 2021.

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