An Elm Tree in Seattle History

The American Elm is a species of tree native to the northeastern United States, and elms can also thrive in the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest.  Elms can grow to seventy feet high, with a wide-spreading canopy of branches which makes the tree beloved of the shade it provides.

Leaves of the American Elm tree

The majesty of the American Elm’s height and broad canopy may be the reason why a row of elms were planted in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in about the year 1700 alongside the town commons, a central gathering place.

On July 3, 1775, General George Washington came to Cambridge Common to address the assembled volunteers of the first American Revolutionary Army.  It is very likely that General Washington stood in the shade of the elm trees at Cambridge Common that day.

Nearly 250 years later we still have four American Elm trees in Seattle which are George Washington Elms because they are descended from one of the original trees at Cambridge Common.

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Counting the Civil War Veterans in 1890

Headstone of Captain Hoyt at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on Queen Anne Hill. Seattle is rich with the history of Civil War veterans.

In the years following the Civil War of 1861-1865, veterans migrated westward to find land and new lives.  By 1890 there were at least 1,000 Civil War veterans in the Seattle area and more in many other parts of Washington State.

The Census of 1890 included a “Special Schedule” which enumerated the veterans.  It was rich with information about where the veterans had served, their war injuries and their current status.  This Special Schedule was to be used in paying out pensions to veterans and widows.

Civil War Seattle is a project documenting the lives of Civil War veterans and how they participated in the growth of the young city of Seattle.  Here below, I am re-blogging an article by author Richard Heisler of Civil War Seattle, telling of the uproar over the Census of 1890 and the Special Schedule.

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A Civil War Veteran in Fall City: Augustus Marshall

Fall City is about 25 miles east of Seattle.

Americans have always been a people on-the-move.  Every year numbers of Americans relocate for reasons of access to jobs, education or simply for a change of lifestyle to explore a different region and climate.

From the earliest years of the USA there was westward migration to find farmland and resources such as timber.  In this blog post we will trace the migration of a Civil War veteran who gradually moved across the USA until he came to the Pacific Northwest.  Augustus Marshall came to live in Fall City, Washington Territory in about 1887.  Washington finally became a state in 1889.

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A Civil War Veteran in Seattle: H.C. Henry

During the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865, one of the pivotal battles was at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, over three days: July 1, 2, and 3, 1863.  This titanic confrontation between Confederate troops commanded by Robert E. Lee, and the U.S. government troops of General George G. Meade, took place at a crossroads town at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley.

Battle map, Day 3 at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Gettysburg is only eighty miles north of Washington, D.C.  General Lee had thought to bring his Confederate troops in a circular swoop down to invade the Federal capital, but the battle at Gettysburg put a historic stop to the plan.

The events of Gettysburg may or may not have marked a turning point in the Civil War, which would continue on for two more years, but Gettysburg is remembered as a significant battle for several reasons.  A very large number of troops, about 170,000 total, engaged in the combat which was the largest battle ever fought on North American soil.  After three days of bloody struggle, survivors were forever marked by their participation.

The events of the Civil War occurred far, far away from what was then the tiny village of Seattle in Washington Territory, but in decades to follow, Civil War veterans moved westward and some became influential citizens of Seattle.  This blog article will tell of H.C. Henry, a man who fought at Gettysburg and later became a significant contributor to his adopted city of Seattle.  A local history project, Civil War Seattle, weaves together the stories of veterans and the growth of the city of Seattle.

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The Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel at Northgate

The Thornton Creek watershed in northeast Seattle.

Thornton Creek, with two main branches north and south, flows in a southeasterly direction through north Seattle to the creek’s outlet at NE 93rd Street (Matthews Beach) on Lake Washington. The North Branch originates in Shoreline, and the South Branch comes from the Northgate area.  Many smaller tributaries join into Thornton Creek along the way.

The creek system was named for John Thornton, a very early resident of Washington Territory who lived in the Port Townsend area.  He paid cash for his purchase of land at the headwaters of Thornton Creek in today’s Seattle-Shoreline area, and he never lived there.

The two major branches of Thornton Creek have a convergence point called The Confluence along 35th Ave NE at NE 107th Street, just east of Nathan Hale High School.  Meadowbrook Pond which has been created there at The Convergence, successfully slows the flow of water, controls flooding and filters sediment and pollutants out of the water.

Another water-quality filtration site is along the South Branch of Thornton Creek at Northgate. This article will tell how the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel was created for the South Branch of the creek in 2004.

Looking north at the Water Quality Channel at Northgate, we see commercial buildings and apartments on the perimeter of the channel. Photo of Wikimedia, courtesy of Joe Mabel.

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Dorothy’s Thornton Creek Adventure

The Thornton Creek watershed extends eighteen miles through Shoreline and northeast Seattle, with its outlet into Lake Washington at about NE 93rd Street.  The creek has two main branches, North and South, with many tributaries.  Although he never lived there, the creek system was named for John Thornton because of his purchase of a land claim in 1889.

Meadowbrook Pond was created for holding and filtering water.

Just as it is today at Meadowbrook Pond at about NE 107th Street just east of 35th Ave NE, there is a convergence point of the two branches of the creek, in an area called The Confluence.

In the 1920s and 1930s when northeast Seattle was still very rural, there were fewer roads and developments to impede the flow of the creek.  Downstream of The Confluence, southeast of NE 105th Street there would have been a much bigger flow of water in those days, especially in wintertime after heavy rains.

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The Roy Land Family of Meadowbrook

Matthew’s Beach is on Lake Washington at NE 93rd Street. In addition to the beach there are picnic and play areas overlooking the water.

In 1930 twenty-four-year-old Henry Land and his wife were living near NE 97th Street in northeast Seattle, where Thornton Creek flowed past on its way to what is now Matthews Beach.  Henry worked as a mechanic at one of the car companies owned by John Matthews.

John Matthews had come to Seattle in 1910 and engaged in multiple businesses, including logging operations, car sales, and real estate, as well as his original vocation, the practice of law.  In 1923 Mr. Matthews moved to a house on Lake Washington and became part of the northeast Seattle community, later to be called Meadowbrook and Matthews Beach.

Henry Land was concerned for his parents, living near Portland, Oregon and struggling with the lack of work during the 1930s Great Depression years of economic difficulty.  Henry told Mr. Matthews about his father, Roy Land, who was an experienced teamster.  The term “teamster” in those days meant someone who was skilled in harnessing and handling horses to pull wagons, farm equipment, road-grading or excavation equipment.  Mr. Matthews agreed to give Roy Land a job if he came to Seattle.

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Meadowbrook in Early Years

Where is “Meadowbrook” in Seattle?

City of Seattle map of neighborhood

The Meadowbrook neighborhood in northeast Seattle derived its name from a golf course which was at the present site of Nathan Hale High School. This lowlands acreage with a creek running through it had once been part of the Fischer Farm.  Meadowbrook Golf Course opened in 1932 on the valley of forty acres from NE 105th to 110th Streets, 30th to 35th Ave NE.

In 1960 the golf course was taken by “eminent domain” to become school property. Many in the neighborhood would have liked the new high school to be named Meadowbrook, but it was not to be; the school district’s naming system specified presidents like Roosevelt and historic figures like Nathan Hale.

The Meadowbrook name was kept in some local usage even after the golf course closed.  Current Meadowbrook references are an apartment building on NE 110th Street, the swimming pool & community center at 10517 35th Ave NE, and the Meadowbrook Pond across from it on the east side of 35th Ave NE.  In 1990 a community council was formed for the neighborhood, and today the Meadowbrook Community Council coordinates volunteer work and is a liaison with city info.

Today Meadowbrook is defined as one of the neighborhoods in the greater Lake City area of northeast Seattle.  In a circle around the central Lake City business district are the neighborhoods of Victory Heights, Olympic Hills, Cedar Park and Meadowbrook.

Meadowbrook business district on NE 110th Street at the corner of 35th Ave NE.

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The Swansons of Ravenna Valley

The little community of Ravenna in northeast Seattle began to expand in the early 1900s.  Population growth naturally moved in that direction as more people clustered near to the University of Washington.

Ravenna Park Bridge on 20th Ave NE, built in 1913.

The growth of northeast Seattle was further stimulated by a world’s fair event scheduled for the summer of 1909 to be held on the university campus.  The fair, called the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE), was of permanent benefit for the development of the campus, and it was the cause of nearby infrastructure improvements such as roads, bridges and streetcar lines.

In the run-up to the AYPE during the years 1906 to 1909, more real estate promotion was done in northeast Seattle which included plats of land divided into house lots.

Census and city directory listings show that in those years a lot of people migrated to Seattle to get in on its economic opportunities.  It can be shown that some of the new arrivals were of “secondary migration,” immigrants who had been in other areas of the USA before coming to Seattle.  Swan Swanson was one of those who had been born overseas, spent time in the Midwest states of the USA as a farmer and then came to Seattle as a carpenter and real estate dealer.

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Ravenna in Seattle

Where is “Ravenna” in Seattle?

When asked to define a neighborhood we might think of natural boundaries such as ravines or rivers.   There are also man-made dividing lines such as streets and business districts.

The Ravenna business districts are along 25th Ave NE and NE 50th to 55th Streets, north of today’s University Village Shopping Center.  Ravenna’s origins were as a ravine which became a park, and a scenic stop on Seattle’s early railroad line.  The first cluster of businesses were near to the railroad stop on NE Blakeley Street.

Ravenna area map

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