Redmond -- Thumbnail History

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 11/09/1998
  • Essay 304
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Redmond, home to the Microsoft Corportation, is known worldwide as a center for high technology. The town's fame has come about only in recent times. For more than a century, Redmond was seen as just another small settlement that grew into suburbia.

McRedmond and Perrigo Arrive

The first settlers in the Redmond area were Luke McRedmond (1820?-1898) and Warren Perrigo (1836-?). Arriving in the area in 1871, McRedmond took up a claim along the Sammamish River, while Perrigo took up land just east of him. In 1850, McRedmond left Ireland during the potato famine, and immigrated to the United States. He traveled across the country, and settled at Port Madison in Kitsap County. There, he took up service as county commissioner and sheriff. Perrigo, a Civil War veteran, and his wife Laura, had traveled around Cape Horn from New England in 1866 and, like McRedmond, also settled in Kitsap County.

Both men had wanted to homestead. After visiting areas east of Seattle, they decided to file claims in the Sammamish Valley where the soil was rich and the waters bountiful. Immediately after filing claims they started to clear their land.

Realizing that many travelers and hunters would be soon be passing through the region, the Perrigos built a house that could also be used as an inn. They named it Melrose House after Perrigo's hometown in Massachusetts, and many early pioneers stayed there while scouting out claims. Perrigo also blazed many early trails and roads, creating a network among the other fledgling communities in the region, with his inn at the center. It is no surprise that he also became the foremost trader in the region.

Meanwhile, McRedmond had started creating a village. Originally named Salmonburg after the abundance of dog salmon in the rivers and streams, it was later changed to Melrose due to the popularity of Melrose House. When McRedmond became postmaster in 1882, he officially changed the name to Redmond. This caused bitterness between the Perrigo and McRedmond families for years to come.

A Small Town Prospers

For the other pioneers, the name mattered little. They had come to make a living, and that they did. The foothills of the Cascade Mountains were to the east, which provided jobs for loggers. To the south, Lake Sammamish was perfect for fishermen and hunters. The bustling town of Kirkland to the west had easy ferry service to Seattle for those wishing to buy and sell their goods. Rail service came to Redmond in 1889, when the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad was built through town.

Redmond began to prosper. The first school was built in 1897. Lumber mills and shingle mills dotted the countryside. Warren Perrigo became a leader inthe fight for good roads. As the century turned, the population of Redmond was 271, and the town was home to both laborers and merchants. Around this time, prominent Seattle banker and businessman James Clise visited the area and liked what he saw. In 1904, he bought 78 acres of land south of town and built an elegant summer home for his family. The Clises liked visiting it so much, they moved out of their mansion in Seattle to their new home, which they called Willowmoor.

They expanded the lodge into a 28-room Tudor mansion and Clise turned the surrounding land into a profitable farm. Later, his wife, Anna, would become instrumental in the foundation of Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle. Many benefits were held at Willowmoor for the well to do to get away from it all and to donate money to a worthy cause. Years later, the mansion became home of the Marymoor Museum of Eastside History, but in 2003 the King County Department of Parks and Recreation took it over for use as an event facility.

It Takes a Baby to Make a Village

In 1912, with a population of 299, residents elected to incorporate. Judge William White, who married Luke McRedmond's daughter Emma and had built a fine hotel in town, opposed the incorporation, stating that the town didn't have 300 citizens as required by law. When it was pointed out that a baby boy had been born a few weeks earlier and had not yet been listed on the rolls, a vote was taken and Redmond became a town on New Year's Eve, 1912.

Over the next few decades, Redmond acquired the amenities required by small town life; churches, a garage, a brick schoolhouse, telephone service, shops, and paved roads. Stage service, which also included an open-air sightseeing bus, was set up to the ferry landing in Kirkland. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, Redmond suffered and persevered like many other American small towns. One of the legacies of that era that survives to this day is the Redmond Bike Derby. Intended as a fundraiser for Christmas decorations and school athletic equipment in 1939, it remains the nation's oldest bike race. Signs leading into Redmond still proclaim the town as the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest.

Redmond In Cyberspace

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the neighboring cities of Kirkland and Bellevue blossomed after bridges were built over Lake Washington. Meanwhile, Redmond grew quietly and would experience its own massive growth spurt on the cusp of the twenty-first century.

In 1985, Microsoft Corporation began taking flight. Founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the company had outgrown its offices in Bellevue and was looking for a place to set up a corporate campus. Gates and Allen chose Redmond as their headquarters. By 2004, Microsoft controlled about 355 acres of land in Redmond. In July 2004, the company announced plans to acquire an additional 20 acres by buying the corporate headquarters of financially troubled clothing retailer Eddie Bauer. Chances are, if you own or use a computer anywhere in the world, you've heard of Redmond. That's quite a change for a little town once called Salmonburg.


Clarence B. Bagley, History of King County (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co, 1929), Vol. I, 847-855. Also see: Nancy Way, Our Town: Redmond (Redmond: Marymoor Museum, 1989).

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