Emily Inez Denny — Seattle Pioneer

Emily Inez Denny was born in Seattle in 1853. She was the first white child born in Seattle and the oldest child of pioneers David and Louisa Boren Denny.

Louisa, Madge, David, and Emily Denny ca. 1861

Inez and her sister Madge took classes at the Territorial University when it opened in 1860. Inez later recounted that each pupil had a small slate on which lessons were written, as paper was expensive and in short supply on the frontier. The girls cleaned their slates with a sponge attached to the slate by a string and water kept in a little bottle in their pockets. The boys, on the other hand, often didn’t bother with the sponge and water, but would spit on the slate or lick it off and dry it with a sleeve.

As a child, Inez remembered the severe drought of 1868. From June 1 to October 29, no rain fell. Forest fires broke out and she and her sisters ran down the road to their parent’s farm with the tall cedars flaming above their heads on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill.

By the 1890’s her parents David and Louisa Boren Denny owned a huge portion of the land on the south slope of Queen Anne which they divided into 11 plats, the last one of which they chose for the site of the Decatur Terrace, their home.

Decatur Terrace ca. 1900 (courtesy MOHAI)

In 1891 David Denny put all of his and Louisa’s assets behind the public street railway. Unlucky for them the Depression of 1893 resulted in the failure of the railway in 1894. Everything the Denny’s had, including Decatur Terrace went into receivership. The couple then moved out to their old hunting cabin in Licton Springs where Inez was living and continued to live with her until their deaths.

Starting from childhood until her death in 1918, Inez Denny drew and painted landscapes of the Puget Sound region and scenes from Seattle’s early history. Many of her works are in the collections of the Museum of History and Industry.

Battle of Seattle, 1856 by Emily Denny (displayed at MOHAI)
(photo by Bruce Jones)