In 1882-1883 George Boman split up with his second wife, Adelia, and started a new life in a house on the north shore of Lake Union, on what is now Woodland Park Avenue North near Stone Way. Those streets did not exist at that time and very few people lived in the area.
In 1888, the Fremont development was created, which caused increased prosperity for George Boman. His property was on the eastern edge/just outside of the official Fremont plat. Boman’s property increased in value because of its location which was made more convenient by the Fremont development. There were more people interested in buying house lots in the area of the new Fremont community.
Boman also owned farmland in Duvall, east King County, and he had gotten acquainted with the Selleck family of Cherry Creek Farm.
In November 1883 the entire Selleck family left the farm and came to live with Boman at his house on what he then called Boman Avenue (today’s Woodland Park Avenue North).
The Selleck family included John and his wife who were about sixty years old, their two adult children Edward and Mary, and Mary’s little boy, Ralph. A newspaper article noted the family’s move to Seattle. We may wonder who wrote the line that Mary would “rejoin her husband” in Seattle, as it soon became clear that she had no intention of doing so.
It may be that the Sellecks were planning to buy Seattle property from George Boman or perhaps he had made a boarding arrangement with them since he was living alone, that he might take meals with the Selleck family and that they would help maintain his property. His house had been built as a duplex so it seems that he’d intended to have someone else live there, perhaps so that during the day when he was at work, someone was there on site.
This article is the third in a series about George Boman, a Civil War veteran. The first article is about his origins in Tennessee and his Civil War service. The second article begins with his arrival in Seattle in 1875. In this article we will see the activities of George Boman in Seattle in the 1880s. Throughout the 1880s, Boman prospered with real estate and business investments.
Mary Selleck Seymour
The Selleck’s daughter Mary Seymour, age 28, had decided to leave her husband in 1882, and for about a year she had been back living with her parents at the Cherry Creek farm near Duvall, east King County.
When William Seymour & Mary were first married, they had lived in the Duvall community but after baby Ralph was born in 1881, William Seymour moved his family over to the Port Townsend area. Mary was unhappy and returned home with her baby in 1882. In November 1883, when the Selleck family moved from their Cherry Creek farm to Seattle, Mary went with them. When they arrived by boat at Seattle, George Boman met them at the downtown Seattle waterfront dock and took them to his house.
In December 1883 William Seymour, Mary’s estranged husband, appeared at the Boman house at Lake Union in Seattle, grabbed two-year-old Ralph and left the house, intending to take custody of his son.
Hearing Mary and her mother screaming, Mary’s father John Selleck came running from another building and tried to stop William Seymour from taking the child. Seymour fired a pistol over the head of his father-in-law, got in a wagon and proceeded to the Seattle waterfront.
Seymour took his son and got on a boat with the intention of returning to Port Townsend, but he was stopped and arrested at Bainbridge, the island in Puget Sound closest to Seattle.
Seattle newspapers ran lurid reports of the court proceedings in the child custody case. It was Seymour’s contention that George Boman had caused alienation of affection between himself and his wife. This was a serious accusation but Mary’s attorney pointed out that Mary had gone back to living with her parents since 1882 so of course she went with them when they moved to Boman’s house in Seattle in 1883. Boman was not there when Mary’s estranged husband came to the house that day, and Boman was not called to testify in the child custody court case.
The court restored little Ralph to his mother’s care. Legal wrangling continued through the divorce of William Seymour & Mary in 1884. A year later in 1885, Mary married George Boman. She was thirty years old and Boman was forty-one.
George Boman’s ex-wife Adelia also remarried in 1885 and she chose another Civil War veteran as her second husband. Adelia died in Seattle in 1888 at age thirty-eight.
The last five years of Boman’s life
During the years 1885 to 1890 George Boman’s life seemed relatively free of personal problems but along with other residents of Seattle, he and Mary witnessed some extreme events and crises in the history of the city.
During the later months of 1885 and into the year 1886, there was unrest due to labor issues and the scapegoating of Chinese workers. On Sunday, February 7, 1886, an organized group began moving from residence to residence in Seattle, routing out the Chinese and forcing them to walk to the waterfront to get on a boat and leave town.
The militia was called out, meaning that Seattle citizens were deputized to form up into military-style units to help keep order. Not surprisingly some of the militia were Civil War veterans including Captain George Kinnear.
Some tense confrontations took place that day and some people were arrested, including a young attorney, Junius Rochester, who had been going house-to-house with the crowd of rabble-rousers. In his later court defense, Rochester’s attorney said that Rochester was only giving legal oversight on that day.
We may wonder if George Boman witnessed the uproar on February 7, 1886, but I believe he did not. The reason is that the attempted expulsion of the Chinese occurred on a Sunday, a day when businesses were closed. Boman was probably at home on the north side of Lake Union, too far away to be aware of what was happening.
We may wonder what George Boman thought of the Chinese labor issue. As a member of the ship canal committee, Boman would have seen that the Chinese laborers who had been hired to widen the existing waterway, were hard workers and did a much better job than the white men who had previously defaulted on the contract.
Investing in real estate and street railways in Seattle
In 1887 Boman became an investor with two men, J.M. Thompson and Fred Sander, who constructed a cable car line from Pioneer Square eastward to Lake Washington along Yesler Way. The streetcars clamped onto a cable on the ground which pulled the cars. On this streetcar a person could get from the downtown waterfront all the way to the ferry dock at Leschi Park on Lake Washington. These cable cars ran smoothly and the line was a financial success.
Boman engaged in real estate investments with these two men, Thompson & Sander, such as the purchase of land at 102 Occidental Way South (on the south side of Yesler Way across from the present Sinking Ship Parking Garage). Fortunately for the men, they paid for the property early in 1889, before real estate prices soared following the Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889. The sale price was $85,000 of which the buyers paid $75,000 up front. The new building was originally built for the Seattle National Bank. Now it is called the Interurban Building, one of the finest examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in downtown Seattle.
The founding of the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle
An event which positively affected Boman’s personal finances was the founding of Fremont, which at first was a separate suburb, adjacent to Boman’s property on the north side of Lake Union.
Fremont had a unique history in that the property was tied up in legal issues until 1887. No one lived there until attorney Thomas Burke found a way to resolve the ownership question, making the property available for settlement and, most importantly to Burke, clearing the way for his two projects, a railroad and a canal. The present Burke-Gilman Trail on the north side of the Ship Canal through Fremont, is the original route of Burke’s Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad.
Fremont began to be settled in something like a land rush in the summer of 1888, when its promoters offered the first hundred lots for $1 each. The investors also set up a lumber mill, gave lots to businesses and to churches, and generally tried to create a livable community where property values would increase.
George Boman’s property was just to the east of the Fremont plat, one block over, along today’s Woodland Park Avenue North. With the creation of Fremont, Boman didn’t have to do anything to promote land sales himself, because Fremont’s developers ran ads and posted agents on-site. Boman began to be able to sell lots in the property he owned, adjoining Fremont, at increased prices.
During Fremont’s first year as a community, 1888-1889, it grew with a lumber mill, iron foundry, building materials company, stores and residences. At the time of the Great Seattle Fire in downtown Seattle, about four miles away from Fremont, Fremont was ready to supply the City with materials for rebuilding. After the Fire of June 6, 1889, the same men who were promoters of Fremont, were also tasked with restoring the streetcar system of Seattle and so of course they also began extending a line out Westlake Avenue to their property in Fremont. This form of transportation made it even easier for the promoters of Fremont to sell lots in the new development.
The Fire and the re-creation of Seattle
Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, burned about thirty blocks of the downtown core and then the City rose from the ashes to re-organize itself. The Fire triggered the re-alignment and improvement of the city streets, and caused an economic boom as the city rebuilt. Newcomers poured into the city to get jobs in the rebuilding, including architects, looking for work in designing new buildings.
Willis Ritchie was only twenty-five years old when he arrived in Seattle in July 1889, but it seemed there were plenty of jobs for architects after the Fire. One of the commissions he received was for a new house for George Boman, next to Boman’s first house where he had been living with his wife Mary and her parents. Boman’s new house seemed to be making a statement of his increased prosperity and was in the popular Queen Anne style with turrets and embellishments.
At the start of the year 1890 everything seemed to be going well for George Boman. He had made big profits in land sales after the Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889, because property values had increased so much. He was a successful investor in streetcar lines and in plats of land for commercial and residential buildings, and he had become one of the investors in other projects, including the proposed Denny Hotel.
The next article on this blog will outline the events of the year 1890, ending with the death of George Boman in December 1890. Then the last article in this series will tell what happened to his wife Mary after the death of George Boman.
Early Neighborhood Historic Resources Survey Report and Context Statement by Greg Lange and Thomas Veith, 2005 (revised 2009.) The report is listed as “Residential structures constructed prior to 1906” under context statements, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods historic preservation page.
“Interurban Building (Seattle),” Wikipedia essay, accessed January 2023.
“Mobs forcibly expel most of Seattle’s Chinese residents beginning on February 7, 1886,” HistoryLink Essay #2745 by Phil Dougherty, 2013.
Newspapers — The Seattle Post-Intelligencer of the 1880s, accessed via Chronicling America.
Puget Sound Regional Archives — court cases, property records and house photos. The 1883 case of Mary vs. William B. Seymour over custody of their son Ralph, is on file as Frontier Justice Case KNG-3563.
Seattle’s Streetcar Era: An Illustrated History, 1884-1941, by Mike Bergman, 2021.
“Street Railways in Seattle,” HistoryLink Essay #2707 by Walt Crowley, 2000.
Wallingford history — listed under context statements, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods historic preservation page. George Boman is listed as a member of the ship canal committee of the 1880s and a property developer at the border of the Fremont & Wallingford neighborhoods.
“Willis Alexander Ritchie (1864-1931),” essay by Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, pages 70 to 75 in Shaping Seattle Architecture, 2014.