Pioneer Childhood on the Hill

Chapter Six:  Pioneer Childhood on Queen Anne Hill
by Kay F. Reinartz, PhD; copied from Queen Anne:  Community on the Hill

Published 1993 by Queen Anne Historical Society, edited by Kay Reinartz

The very thought of [pioneer child life] makes the blood tingle and the heart leap.  No element was wanting for romance or adventure.  Indians, bears, panthers, far journeys in canoes or on horseback, fording rivers, camping and tramping, all in a virgin wilderness so full of grandeur and loveliness  that even very little children were impressed by the appearance thereof.
The strangeness and newness of it all was hardly understood by the native white children as they had no means of comparing this region and mode of life with other countries and customs.
                                                      Inez Denny, Blazing the Way, 1909

All too often frontier history tells the story of adult pioneers’ dreams, work, successes and failures, but the experiences of children are unknown.  By rare good fortune written records have been kept by the Denny and Mercer children themselves of their pioneer life on Queen Anne Hill in the 1860s and 1870s.  Fortunately, Inez and Abbie Denny had both a gift for words and the discipline to write of the pioneer childhood they and their siblings enjoyed on the hill.  In addition, Susie Mercer has left a modest collection of anecdotes published in the local newspapers.

Half of the 24-member Denny-Boren pioneer party that landed at Alki Beach on November 13, 1851 were children under ten years of age  None of these children lived on Queen Anne Hill, however.
The first children on the hill were the four daughters of Thomas Mercer — Mary Jane, 13; Eliza Ann, 11; Susannah, nine; and Alice, three — who came to live on the south slope with their widowed father in the summer of 1853.  In 1854 David and Louisa Denny brought their nine-month-old baby Emily Inez to their cabin in the swale.  Thomas Mercer’s daughters loved to hike through the woods to Louisa’s cabin to see the baby and visit.  Inez Denny and Alice Mercer were four years apart in age and eventually became good friends.
Following the Native American uprising both families moved to Seattle.  The Mercers moved back to the hill around 1861 and the Dennys spent their summers on the homestead and their winters in Seattle.  When the Denny family moved to a new farmhouse on Lake Union in 1870, there were seven children ranging in age from 16 to one year:  Inez, Madge Decatur, Abigail Lenora, John B., Anna Louisa, David Thomas Jr. (Davie), and Victor Winfield Scott.  A twin son had been born with David, but died at birth.  Cousin Billie Boren, who was Inez’s age, was also a part of the family.  More children came to the hill in the mid-1870s when the 11 Ross children and the seven daughters and one son of Dr. Henry Smith and Mary Phelan Smith joined the community.
Speaking for the pioneer children Inez says that, as children growing up on the hill, “we were seldom panic-stricken; born amid dangers, there seemed nothing novel about them and we took our environment as a matter of course.  We were taught to be courageous but not foolhardy which may account for our not getting oftener in trouble.”

Above:  Emily Inez Denny, the Denny’s first child, was an artist and writer who painted many scenes of the pioneer life she experienced.  She published the narrative of her parents’ pioneer experiences, as well as her own, in Blazing the Way published in 1909.  Her descriptive writing and character sketches provide priceless insights into the early community on Queen Anne Hill.

Above:  Abigail L. Denny was the third child of David and Louisa Boren Denny.  Abbie wrote spirited accounts of the Denny children’s life on Queen Anne in the 1870s.

The Native Americans of Puget Sound country have always been a people with a great love of children.  Inez Denny comments about the Indians, “How they admired the native white children!  Without ceremony they claimed blood brotherhood, saying to the children, “You were born in your illahee (country) and are our tillicum (friend).  You eat the same food, will grow up here and belong to us.”  Often in the 1860s, the Denny children were lulled to sleep at night in their Seattle cottage by the tamanuse singing of the natives camped on the nearby beach (vicinity Battery St.).
The native children were usually amiable and friendly toward the pioneer children.  Inez recalls as a girl meeting little native girls singing and walking hand-in-hand along the beach or a woods trail.  She asked them, “Ka mika klatawa?” (“Where are you going?”).  And they replied, “O, copa yawa” (O, over yonder”), nodding toward the trail stretching along before them.
Because of their parents’ apprehension following the Native American uprising, the Denny children were only occasionally allowed to play with the native children and visit their beach camps.  The children found the camps fascinating places of strong odors from salmon drying on poles over small fires and strings of claims hanging inside mat houses.
Inez recalls only a single incident when the Denny children were treated rudely by a native child.  She and Madge were visiting a camp at Smith Cove when a hostile little boy hurled a rock at Madge, hitting her in the head.  To Inez he appeared filled with hatred and bitterness, and she wondered what had happened to make him so.  She learned later that he was not of the Puget Sound people, but Snohomish, a group that harbored a deep hatred of the settlers because of bad experiences.

Inez tells us that the Denny children
had no real fear of the Indians and never but once were we frightened by them.  The first time was when we met ten big braves, wrapped in their blankets with one arm free, brandishing long knives and keeping time to a weird chant as they traveled at a dog trot along the road.  They were mamooking black tamanuse (driving away evil spirits).
The pioneer children were taught by their native playmates that the northern tribes, especially the Stickeens, should be feared for they were fierce headtakers.  The Puget Sound natives greatly feared these people themselves.  Indeed, Inez declares that the children feared the drunken white man much more than the sober Native American.
The Denny children learned that the greatest fear of their native friends was the frightful statalth or “stick siwash,” which haunted the dark forest.  These were ghosts of a race of people long dead who had been of a gigantic stature.  The ghosts were likewise very tall, dreadful and intent on chasing anyone they met in the woods on moonless nights.  Inez reports one black moonless night a large brawny brave dashed into the Denny’s farmyard running as fast as his legs would carry him.  He was carrying a blazing pitchwood torch over his head as he kept looking back over his shoulder for the statalth.
When Susie Mercer first met native children she was astonished that she could not understand them when they spoke and vice versa.  She and her sisters immediately decided to learn the local tribal language and to teach their native playmates English.  Susie reports that “the Indians were slow to learn, and as a result all of us talked Chinook, even among ourselves.”  Inez and Madge Denny also decided to teach a native playmate to read English and every day they sat down with her for an hour with their graded reader and dictionary.  The girl, who was very pretty “with long wavy black hair and bright color in her cheeks,” had a lively curiosity and a zest for learning English.

The Denny children’s native friends brought them pets, including bear cubs, mink, a raccoon, and numerous wild birds.  Once the children adopted several grouse chicks and raised them with the barnyard chickens until the day they flew off.  A special pet bird was a crow named “Jim,” who liked to help the children pick currants.  As they worked their way through the thickets he would hover close by, opening his mouth to receive currants from the children.  The greedy crow would eat berries so fast they would roll out of his mouth.
One pet they all adored was an orphan fawn which soon became their close companion, following them everywhere — into the house or out in the woods, wherever they went to work or play.  A memory Inez treasured of Madge, her dear sister and good friend, was Madge as a girl “with her arms entwined abut the slender neck of [the] pet fawn, her eyes shining with love and laughter, her burnished hair shimmering like a halo in the sunlight as she pattered here and there with her graceful playfellow.”  When they were busy berry picking, which occupied them most of the time, the children had to keep a sharp eye  eye on their buckets or the fawn would make lunch of hours’ worth of work.  The berries were preserved as part of the family’s food supply.
One day a native friend walked into the Dennys’ farmyard with a beaver cub in a covered basket.  The children kept the beaver as it grew, fascinated by the replacement of its soft baby fur with strong stiff fur that shed water and protected the animal.  The beaver was as tame as a kitten and would eagerly eat raspberry shoots and other fresh greens from the children’s hands.  Whenever there was a tub of water around the beaver climbed in and happily slapped the water with its broad tail, spraying a sheet of water in a ten-foot arc.
Louisa Denny, who generally approved of her children knowing and befriending the array of woods animals, finally objected to the full-grown beaver, which regularly flooded the house by diving into any tub of water placed on the kitchen floor.  The pet went to the Territorial University’s student dormitory, where it soon died.  The children were told that the beaver died because the students “bathed it to death,” but more likely it was fed the wrong food.
One day the Denny children reversed the situation with their native friends and gave a Duwamish woman a kitten for a pet.  The woman had come to their house to trade clams for potatoes and was very pleased to receive the kitten, which she called pish-pish (cat) as she wrapped it in her shawl.  The next day she reappeared at the Dennys’ door, displaying her hands and arms which were covered with scratches made by the mesachie pish-pish (bad cat).  Louisa soothed her ire by giving her some oven-baked supalel (bread), which was highly valued as a luxury by the natives, who rarely had yeast bread.
When one of the children’s pets died, they invariably held a funeral with pomp and ceremony as they buried it in the orchard or flower garden.  One time when a pet bird had died Madge, aged six, arranged a litter upon which the tiny corpse was placed, draped with white muslin and decorated with flowers.  Two children carried the litter as Madge followed, singing seriously:
We’re traveling to the grave
To lay this body down
And the last word I heard him speak
Was about Jerusalem.

The Denny family was very fond of dogs.  David had brought his large black Newfoundland, Towser, out west with him and the dog was David’s constant companion while hunting in the 1850s.  Watch was a longtime family pet, although there is no record of the dog’s origins.  Jack, a yellow hound, was also a family pet and David’s hunting companion in the 1860s.
Watch often accompanied the children on their adventures exploring the hill and cove, and at least once saved their lives.  On a sunny April day, five of the children finished their work early and decided to take a walk west through the forest, toward Smith Cove and Elliott Bay.  As they went along the beach at the cove, they went beyond the three big stones, the marker agreed upon with their parents as the farthermost distance they should go along the beach.
Admonishing Abbie, John, and Dave to “stay together,” Inez and Madge climbed up the steep hillside to gather some creamy white honeysuckle.  They had just broken off some blossoms when they saw Watch become very excited about something that appeared to be in an immense hollow log.  Every bristle on the bulldog’s body stood straight up.  He quivered with terror and animal rage, and was slowly, very slowly, backing toward the girls.  Without any discussion, the girls took to their heels and scrambled and fell down the yellow bank to where the others were waiting.  The troop stampeded down the beach and then up the trail to home, about a mile and a half.
A few days later the Dennys were invited by their native neighbors to come to their camp in the cove to see the carcass of a cougar which measured about nine feet.  With wondering eyes the children circled the huge beast, marveling at its great length, huge paws, and hard white teeth protruding over shrunken lips.  They were sure this was the creature that had alarmed Watch a few days earlier.

On Saturdays in the 1860s and 1870s, when the children’s lessons and work around the farm were well done, Louisa rewarded them by permitting them to spend the afternoon on the beach.  Abbie tells us that “the beach was clean and beautiful … and we found treasures of little pink shells, agates, pebbles, and many other things.  The banks in the spring were all abloom with syringa, red flowers, coral, honeysuckle, and spirea.”  When it was warm enough to swim the children went skinny-dipping.  When a visitor to the farm reported that he had seen them skinny-dipping the day before, they objected, saying he had seen native children.

Christmas was observed each year beginning at the Alki settlement in 1851, when the children’s gifts were trinkets Louisa had the foresight to tuck into her emigrant trunk.  In 1859 George Frye and Charlie Plummer decided there should be a Santa Claus for the children and dressed up as natives, wrapping themselves in blankets and carrying their trinkets in a sack.  The children were ecstatic, no matter that Santa was “double” and appeared as a Native American.
Christmas trees were not a custom in the United States at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  The custom was introduced in England by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Albert, and thence it came to America.  Around 1860 Louisa and David Denny had the first Christmas tree in Seattle.  David cut a small Douglas fir and Louisa hung bright red Lady apples, sticks of candy, and little gifts on the branches.
After the Territorial University’s 1860 opening, a Christmas tree was put up on a platform and Susie and Alice Mercer joined in the decorating party.  They also made great ropes of spicy cedar with which they crisscrossed the central hall.  Boughs of Douglas fir were ornamented with large glass balls.  A program was put on for the community with the young children, including Inez and Madge Denny and Alice Mercer, singing Christmas carols and hymns.

In the frontier home there was always an abundance of chores and tasks, and every pair of hands was needed.  Children learned while still very young that they were expected to be industrious and useful to their parents.  In fact, there were many jobs that could be done by even a five- or six-year-old child around the homestead.  One such daily job was bringing the cows home from where they grazed among the stumps and natural clearings, where they found lush grass.  This task often took real fortitude, for it meant going along trails “through the dark, thick forest in the deepening twilight that was impenetrable blackness in the wall of somber evergreens on either hand,” in Inez’s words.
Older brothers and sisters were responsible for watching out for the little ones.  The garden always needed weeding and many hands were required for gathering the quantities of vegetables.  The woodbox must be kept full, and water hauled to the house from the creek, lake, or well.  Children helped with all aspects of food preparation, including cooking, baking, and the serving of meals.
In the early pioneering days there was not the rigid differentiation between the roles of women and men, or of boys and girls.  Inez Denny tells us that “the majority of the pioneer boys were expected to not be particular as to whether they did men’s work or women’s work.”  Cousin Billie Boren was “a notable example of versatility, lending a hand with helpless babies, cooking or washing, the most patient and faithful of nurses, lifting many a burden for the tired house-mother.”
The children helped preserve the garden produce, such as stringing apples for drying.  Another chore was selling surplus vegetables and flowers door-to-door.  Susie and Alice Mercer also made the rounds of the village selling vegetables, milk, and eggs from their farm.
On washing day children were pressed into service performing numerous tasks:  tending the fire under the big kettle in the yard, rubbing soft homemade soap into the soiled places on the clothing and linens, and wringing out the washed clothes.  The children then spread the clothes on bushes and branches to dry.  Later they used clotheslines.

The pioneer children had few toys and their playground was the green, tree-covered hillsides and brown beaches.  For fun they dared each other to climb up the steepest, slipperiest banks above Smith Cove or to walk or run down the 50- and 60-foot logs that lay at odd angles across deep ravines or on steep inclines.  Inez reports that the children went on with their usual outdoor games the year around, unless it rained unusually hard.  They loved being outside and were restive if kept in the house for very long.
The children were not restrained in their athletic adventures for fear of damaging their clothes.  The girls’ dresses and boys’ shirts were of cotton calico which cost only five cents a yard at Dexter Horton’s store.  Warmer dresses and trousers were made of linsey-woolsey, a home-woven blend of linen and wool fibers, and handknit wool sweaters, mittens, and scarves kept off the damp child from the bay in the winter time.  The girls participated in making their own clothes, knitting and stitching the garments.  Everything was carefully washed and mended over and over before it was handed down to the next child, or to a neighbor.
When the Chinook wind came singing across Puget Sound in January or February, the boys sent their homemade kites up, up into the sky at the top of Queen Anne Hill.  On such windy days the girls would loosen their long hair, which was normally braided or held back in a net, and perform what they called a “skirt dance” be holding the hems of their skirts over the heads and running down the hill squealing with delight as their skirts ballooned out behind them like sails.
The cattle were another source of adventure.  When David’s range stock came around the homestead, which it did quite often, the children would run for a rope or rawhide lariat and lasso the calves.  One day Inez and Madge enjoyed a wild adventure.  Mounting a two-year-old heifer when it was lying down, they were startled when it leapt to its feet and bellowing hideously, ran for dear life with the two girls clinging to its back.  In seconds the entire herd began stampeding toward Lake Union — cows leaping over logs and calves bawling — with the girls astride the heifer in the middle of a cloud of dust, shrieking with delight and fright.  They eventually flew off, landing in a soft sandy spot in the road.
When the Ross or Smith children came over to the Denny farm they loved to play on the teeter-totter.  The Denny teeter-totter had the longest, strongest Douglas fir board that could be found laid across a large log.  A huge stone was placed in the middle to hold down the board, which was then crowded with large and small children at either end until there was hardly any board showing.  They then see-sawed the board up and down, with their eyes glued on the huge stone, prepared to leap aside if it started rolling.
Canoeing along the shores of Elliott Bay and later, when they were older, north and south along the Sound, was a major recreation of the children, who all quickly learned to handle a native canoe.  Most often the pioneer women and children used the style of canoe designed for the native women, a stable, lightweight canoe that was easily navigable, in contrast to the larger, heavier, fishing and war canoes used by the men.
At a young age all boys and any interested girls were taught to shoot well.  David and Louisa’s sons, as well as Madge and their cousin Billie, became good shots with both the shotgun and rifle at a young age, and killed numerous bear, deer, grouse, pheasants, ducks, wild pigeons and other game for the family table.  Thomas Mercer taught all of his daughters how to handle firearms.  More than one girl brought down bear, as well as birds, elk, moose, and deer.

Toys were simple and homemade.  The few toys a family had were shared by everyone.  Dolls made of calico or corncobs were common, as were calico dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, and horses.  Children traded with the native children for their toys, including child-size bows and arrows.  The bows were stained with berry juice and the arrows tipped with red, with duck feathers forming the vanes that kept the arrows flying straight.
Children often made their own toys, such as kites constructed of slivers of light wood and paper.  Baseballs were made by winding a piece of rubber with yarn, then twine, and covering it with leather cut from the tops of old worn-out boots.
In the evenings children often played Authors, Hearts, or other card games.  Lucky children received in the mail Youth’s Companion or St. Nicholas, popular young people’s magazines from “back east.”  Each issue had crossword puzzles and pencil games, and was a treasure-trove of ideas for things for young people to make and don.

The families living on the hill in the 1850s and 1860s shared a strong religious faith, and many attended church on Sunday.  The boys’ Sunday best consisted of “Buster Brown” style linen blouses, long trousers, and cloth caps with wide visors.
The girls wore ankle-length full skirts held out by hoops, and long, wide, stiffly-starched and beruffled pantlets.  Abbie recalls these “as the bane of our lives, for we had to walk so carefully along the side or the road that their immaculate whiteness should not be marred by the dust.  How we envied the little care-free “Injuns” that we passed on our way to Sunday school.  They did not have to hitch up their hoops in the back when they sat down or else have them fly up and hit them in the nose.”
Abbie Denny has left a delightful sketch of her sisters’ and brothers’ experiences at church.  Reaching the church each Sunday, they climbed what seemed like very high steps to small people, tip-toed in, and sat down on long, painted benches in a “sniggering row to say say their catechisms.”  When the teacher told the children how sin came about by Adam and Eve eating apples, the Denny girls agreed among themselves that “if the apples had been as greens as the ones [they] had tried from the ‘sweet June’ tree, Adam would have let Eve eat them all.”
The Sunday school teacher asked the children to prepare verses to recite, promising that the one learning the most by heart would receive a prize.  One Sunday Anna Louise, about six, put up her hand, indicating that she had a verse.  Receiving a nod, she stood up, and facing the group blurted out at breakneck speed, so no one could stop her:
     Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
     Saddle a cat and I’ll get on.
After a stunned silence the entire Sunday school class erupted into a hysterical laughter, including the teacher.
When Sunday school was over, the children, like their parents, stood around on the church steps talking over the news, such as “”… the folks up river including the little Terry girls, were all flooded out by the early summer freshets … and had all come to Seattle in canoes.”  When they ran out of things to talk about they would wonder about “which Indian had fired the gun that had left the bullet holes in the church window frames.”

The main recreation enjoyed in the evening was getting together with the neighbors for taffy pulling, playing word games, or theatricals on the order of charades.
The older children enjoyed spelling bees, since being able to speak well and spell correctly was much esteemed at this time.  “Spell downs,” in which good spellers engaged in friendly competition, were popular.  These were usually held at the schoolhouse and were well-attended.  Singing was a favorite pastime of children as well as of adults.  Singing schools were organized throughout the year, meeting in the evening, and it was a real step forward toward being “grown up” to be allowed to attend, usually at age 14 or 15.  Many a courtship began at singing school.
Reflecting back on their pioneer childhood in 1906, Abbie Denny-Lindsley observes:
To some of our middle-aged citizens who were once the barefooted boys and girls who played in the roads that are now First and Second avenues, the past seemed like a beautiful dream wherein people of another era dwelt:  the red man with his picturesque garb of blanket and beads; the pioneer in his buckskin hunting blouse; the sailors from white-winged ships of foreign lands, and the jolly jack tars from the old man-of-war.

Madge Decatur Denny:  Queen Anne’s First Mountaineer
Born March 16, 1856, Fort Decatur
Died January 17, 1889,  Queen Anne Hill

All of the pioneer children were adventurous, and some of them became mountain climbers.  Named for the fort where she was born during the Native American uprising, Madge Decatur seemed to have been endowed with a fearless nature and an insatiable appetite for adventure.  Her mother often noted that Madge approached everything in life with a calm, quiet courage.  Madge was a strong natural athlete whose physical stamina and beauty impressed the community.  By the time she was 14 she was a crack shot and could shoot off the head of a grouse at long range.
Inez says of Madge:
Courage, steadfastness and intrepidity were marked traits of her character.  The surpassing loveliness and grandeur of the “world in the open air” appealed to her … even in extreme youth.
Her nerves were of steel; she seldom exhibited a shadow of fear and seemed of a spirit to undertake any daring feat.  To dare the darkness, climb declivities, explore recesses, seemed pleasure to her courageous nature.  At Snoqualmie Falls, in the Archipelago de Haro, in the Jupiter  Hills and Mount Olympus of the Olympic Range, she climbed up and down the steep gorges with the agility of the chamois or our own mountain goat.  The forest, the mountain, the seashore yielded their charm, to her, each gave their messages.
Endowed with great beauty and a keen mind, Madge was also well known for her cheerful temperament and keen sense of humor.  She enjoyed keeping everyone laughing.  She died at age 32 from an undiagnosed illness.  Courtesy Museum of History and Industry

Building Homesteads and Families – The 1860s

Chapter Five:  Building Homesteads and Families — The 1860s
by Kay F. Reinartz, PhD; copied from Queen Anne:  Community on the Hill

Published 1993 by Queen Anne Historical Society, edited by Kay Reinartz

[We] were obliged to do whatever {we} could to obtain a livelihood; [we] were neither ashamed nor afraid of honest work and enjoyed the reward of a good conscience and vigorous health.  Life held many pleasures and much freedom from modern frets besides. … We were happy then, in our log cabin homes.
                                                                         Louisa Boren Denny
                                                                          circa 1876

On November 9, 1860, Territorial Governor Henry M. McGill proclaimed November 29th “as the day of Thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God.”  In the district north of Seattle, neighbors congregated at Dr. Smith’s, whose house was the largest, and as the rain fell outside they sat down to their first Thanksgiving Day celebration.  There was much to be thankful for.  Most of the pioneers had been on the hill or around the cove for at least five years and some nearly ten.  No one had died in the conflict with the Native Americans.  Houses, barns, and fences had been rebuilt.  The crops, gardens, herds, and orchards were growing, there had been marriages, and children had been born.  Everyone was healthy and they were prospering.  In spite of the hardships, they still believed in the future of the Northwest and most particularly Seattle.

“A Visit from Our Tillicum,” by Inez Denny, depicts the Denny family’s house in the swale, later the site of the Seattle Opera House.  Inez shows the sisters visiting with Indian friends through the open half-door locally called a “Seattle door.”  Courtesy Museum of History and Industry

After the native uprising the rapid growth that had characterized Seattle from 1853 ended, and for several years no one started new business enterprises.  Dillis Ward reported that when he arrived in Seattle in August 1859 there were no real streets, just a rough road that followed the shoreline with trails leading away from the water’s edge up to the homesteads and businesses.  There were no more than six houses in the settlement proper north of Mill Street (Yesler Way), with David and Louisa Denny’s little cottage being the northernmost house.
Along Commercial Street, between Mill and Jackson streets, stood four dry goods and general merchandise stores.  The post office operated out of Plummer’s Mercantile.  In addition, there were two restaurants, three saloons, two small lodging houses, a tin shop, and a stove shop.   Nearby was a blacksmith shop and tannery, as well as the Methodist Episcopal Church and the school house.
Although three wharves had been built, only Yesler’s was maintained, and it received nearly all of the business from ships picking up logs and pilings and dropping off supplies and merchandise.  Yesler’s sawmill, the only industry, provided five full-time jobs.  A good deal of the money in circulation in Seattle was brought in by the loggers and lumbermen from the thriving milling centers of Port Orchard, Port Madison, and other places along the west side of Puget Sound.
Elliott Bay was no longer regularly visited by coastal sailing ships looking for lumber cargoes, and the flow of settlers slowed to a trickle.  Gold reversed this trend.  From 1855 to 1865 the discovery of gold in various locations throughout the Northwest created a series of little “gold rushes.”  Men weary of the monotonous round of cutting, clearing and burning slash dropped everything to join the excitement at Colville, Rock Creek, Stehekin, Lillooet, Wenatchee, Florence, Boise, and the Fraser and Thompson rivers, where streams yielded enough placer gold to bring in thousands of prospectors overnight.
It was the big Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858 that brought energy and activity back to Seattle.  The population grew, but it was lopsided with young single men.  The 1860 census reports a population of 275 for King County and 160 for Seattle.  Clarence Bagley records that in 1861 the community had 100 men, 25 women, and 25 children.  There was a total of 23 families including several headed by a single man or woman.  There were only two marriageable-age women in the community — Kate Denny, Arthur and Mary Denny’s daughter; and Susie Mercer.

Isolation was the greatest tension source for everyone living around Puget Sound.  The telegraph line from Portland had been completed in 1855 but was destroyed by the natives that winter.  The telegraph connection to Portland, thence San Francisco and the rest of the country, was not re-established until 1866.
The handful of settlers remaining in 1856 attempted several plans to end their isolation, including cutting a road through Snoqualmie Pass and trying to organize a railroad company.  Their plans were getting support from the federal government until the national disruption of the Civil War diverted all federal funds, without which such ambitious projects could not be accomplished.  David Denny, John Ross, Thomas Mercer, and Dr. Henry Smith were at the center of all these schemes.

All roads around Seattle led to Yesler’s Mill.  After the native uprising, the local roads leading back through the hills and to the lakes were neglected and quickly became nigh impassable.  Thomas Mercer and David Denny diligently maintained the road out to their homesteads, as well as the lane that connected Mercer’s with John Nagle’s place (Eastlake area).  A trail led out from Mercer’s homestead to his daughter Eliza and Walter Graham’s place on Lake Washington.  Inez Denny describes the Eden Hill road as “being the most notable for ups and downs, stumps in the middle and numerous muddy places, but useful nevertheless.”

Thomas Mercer’s two older daughters had married in 1857.  Mary Jane, at age 18, married Henry G. Parsons and moved to Olympia.  Eliza Ann, at age 15, married Walter Graham and they homesteaded on Lake Washington.
While on a trip to Salem to purchase livestock in the summer of 1859, Thomas Mercer met Hester L. Ward, 28, and after a whirlwind courtship the couple married and returned to Seattle, bringing Hetty’s younger half-brother Dillis B. Ward with them.  After living a year in Seattle, Hetty and Tom moved permanently back onto Mercer’s homestead on the hill.

The Mercer Family
Hester Loretta Ward was a very unusual woman, who was known for her ability to learn and adapt quickly, good judgment, and an all-prevailing courage and calmness in a crisis.  Possessing enormous reserves of energy and stamina, she always did more work than most and yet had energy left for fun.
Born in 1826 on the Kentucky frontier, she became a highly skilled frontier woman at a young age.  She lost her mother when she was an infant and at age 13, upon the death of her stepmother, she assumed the role of “woman of the family” by caring for four younger children born of her father Jesse Ward’s various marriages.  This role included caring for newborn infant Dillis Ward, Hester’s half-brother.
In spite of the exceptionally heavy adult responsibilities placed on her as a young girl, she completed grammar school.  Hester Ward was also a textile artist.  She learned to weave while still a girl and often processed raw cotton or wool into fine threads and yarns, which she then wove into fabric.  Over the years she originated many complex patterns which were expressed in useful textiles, particularly coverlets, tablecloths, and clothing.
Inez Denny, who as a child often visited her and became her friend in adulthood, observes regarding Hester’s character:  “A more generous, frank and warmhearted nature was hard to find, the demands made upon it were many and such as to exhaust a shallow one.”  Hester Ward died in 1903 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery by the side of Thomas Mercer.
On May 23, 1861, Susannah, age 18, married David Graham, the younger brother of her sister Eliza Anne’s husband, Walter Graham.  The wedding was held at the Mercer homestead with Rev. Daniel Bagley officiating.  Susie was dressed in a simple dress of white lawn made by a local seamstress, while David wore his old black suit, long in the bottom of his emigrant trunk.
That evening Susie and David were shivareed by a group of men who went out to the Mercers’, where the newlyweds were staying.  The gang stood around the outside of the house and pounded on tin cans, washtubs and anything else they found lying around to make a racket.  They also sang nonsense songs to the newlyweds and then called for whiskey.  Graham, like Thomas Mercer, was a temperance man but he finally went out and told the crowd to go down to the saloon to get what they wanted to drink.  When he went down to the village the next morning, he found the men were still celebrating at the saloon.  He ended their party by paying the bill.
After the marriage David Graham returned to surveying work, which took him out of the village most of the time.  Susie lived with Rev. and Mrs. Bagley and attended the nearby Territorial University.
David Graham’s pioneer dream included farming in the Duwamish Valley, and he and Susie moved to a homestead in what became the Duwamish-Allentown district of Tukwila.  Homesteading so far from Seattle was not totally to the sociable Susie Mercer’s liking.  She often went into Seattle to visit her family and friends via a native “canoe taxi” which she would catch by going down to the riverbank and calling, “Mi-Ka Ticky Klat-a-wa Kopa Seattle” (I need a ride to Seattle).  Any native who wanted a job would answer her call and come by with his canoe and a clean cattail mat for her to sit on.  For 50 cents, he would paddle her to the cove where she would walk around the hill to the homestead.  It took almost an entire day to get to Eden Hill from the Duwamish homestead.
In 1862, Eliza Ann died, leaving William, four, and George, two, to be raised by Walter Graham.  Grief-stricken, Thomas Mercer’s heart went out to his son-in-law, who like himself had to face the task of raising his children alone.
In 1862, Tom’s brother Asa Shinn Mercer came to live with the family.  Twenty-two-year-old Asa would gain much notice in a handful of years in Seattle for his promotion schemes, including easing the shortage of marriageable women by arranging for two small parties of New England school-teachers to come to Seattle to seek their fortunes.  Asa Mercer married one of the teachers himself and they left the region a few years later.

Natural wonders of the Northwest amazed and frightened the settlers in the 1860s.  On April 2, 1859, they experienced their first serious earthquake.  Inez Denny describes her family’s experience:
Not a breath of wind was stirring, the stars were shining and reflected in the depths of the water, no storm was there, but the people saw the tree tops waving, like plumes of warriors swiftly riding and heard a sound like a cannonading, as thousands of trees feel crashing to the earth.  The house … rocked like a boat, [and they] held on to the door frames and looked out — soon it passed by — and it really was quite an earthquake!
It is recorded that the earthquake lasted 90 seconds and seemed to move from the north to the south.  While no damage was done, it had a sobering effect on the pioneers, few of whom had come from areas that had seismic activity on the scale of the Northwest.
Also troublesome to many of the settlers who had come from New England or Midwest states was the Puget Sound weather.  The mildness everyone seemed to agree was most desirable, but the periods of continuous rain were wearying to say the least, particularly in the dark winter months.
The weather was normally gentle, lacking extremes.  However, there were dramatic departures from this pleasant norm.  The winter of 1861 was one to remember.  What began in early December as a mild winter changed radically just before the Christmas holidays when snow began falling and continued falling for a week.  When it stopped snowing the mercury dropped to four below zero, where it stayed for days.  Tom Mercer and Louisa and David Denny lost fruit trees, but Dr. Smith’s sheltered orchard in the cove was undamaged.  Many homesteaders around King County lost livestock.  There was snow on the ground until April, and the pioneers always called this season the Big Winter.

The winter of 1861 Lake Union was frozen solid one-half foot for four months.  The little lake tucked away in the deep woods suddenly became a community social meeting place as settlers originating from New England and other cold parts of the country turned out in full force to ice-skate.  Some people miraculously produced ice skates from the bottom of trunks.  Others ingeniously invented ice skates from things they had around their place.
The Seattle village dwellers made the two-mile trek to the lake walking up Front Street, around the east side of Denny Hill and along Military Road, scrambling over deep frozen ruts, logs, and skids until they veered off Military Road onto a path leading to the lakeshore.  One person estimated that over half the population of the Seattle area joined in on the skating fun that winter.

In the mid-1860s the area was hit by a cyclone.  Inez Denny describes the storm as the Dennys experienced it in their house on the swale:
It began in the evening with a sky of living hues, puffs of wind increasing every hour until one hurtling stream tore at the forest as with giant hands, uprooting great trees, twisting others off as though wisps of straw, lifting sheets of spray from the frothing waves; . . .  Large stones were taken up from the high bank on the bay and piled on the roofs along with limbs broken from tough fir trees.  Thousands of giant trees fell crashing and groaning on the ground, like a continuous cannonade; the noise was terrific and we feared for our lives.
[Down along the beach] the Indian camps caught fire and long streams of flame flowed horizontally into the thick darkness beyond.
The [family] prepared to leave [the house] and go to the big barn, substantially built of heavy timbers and standing on a more protected place.
[They] put out all the fires in the house and [Louisa] wrapped the children well and all sat in one room  — with the lanterns lit, waiting for a lull.  [About midnight they] knelt and commended [themselves] to Him who rules the storm.
Fortunately, [about one o’clock] the wind died down more quickly than it came and much relieved the people retired to rest.  When morning broke some trees near the home were missed, the roads were blocked for many miles ….
The Spring of 1866 was a particularly wet one.  Early in June the rains abruptly stopped and the pioneers sweltered under temperatures reaching 114 degrees F in the shade.  In December 1867 the worst flood on record covered the region and many settlers in low-lying areas, including those living by the cove, were forced out of their homes.  Homesteads up on the hill suffered no losses.  The next year the weather reversed and little rain fell.

In 1868 the Puget Sound area experienced its most severe drought since the beginning of the settlement.  From June 1 to October 29 no rain fell.  A hot dry wind shriveled the crops in the fields and in July, forest fires began breaking out.  By September fires were roaring throughout the Northwest from 600 miles north of the United States-British Columbia border, through Washington and Oregon territories, and into California.  The drifting smoke was reported 1,000 miles west on the Pacific Ocean.  The air was so filled with the acrid smoke of resinous woods as to be almost intolerable.  There was no way to stop the fires and vast areas of forest were burned totally clear.  The onset of the autumn rains finally brought the destruction to a halt.
During this season of forest fires, the south slope of Eden Hill burned.  Inez Denny recounts how she and her sisters ran down the road to their farm with “the tall firs and cedars flaming far above their heads.”

In the autumn of 1861 Rev. Daniel Bagley moved his family from Salem, Oregon, to Seattle so that his son Clarence might attend the new Washington Territorial University, which had opened in 1860.  They traveled over the newly-completed section of Military Road running from Seattle to Portland.  Their arrival in late October brought everyone out into the dusty streets to see the first carriage to come into Seattle from “the outside” on its own wheels.  Rev. Bagley agreed to teach the Fall term at the university, with Clarence assisting him.  When his father was away Clarence took over and taught all of the classes, which were grades 1-12.  Eighteen-year-old Clarence Bagley was the envy of every young man in the area for he had a horse and buggy at his disposal for courting the young women.  The drives were short since there were only two roads — the north route to Tom Mercer’s place, and the south route over the ridge of Beacon Hill down to Lake Washington.
Rev. Bagley was disappointed with the university as a place for Clarence to complete his higher education.  The Bagley family went back East in 1862 and Clarence entered Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania, Dr. Smith’s alma mater.  Before he left Puget Sound, Clarence Bagley had renewed his friendship with the Mercers and over the next four years, which included several trips back to Seattle, he courted Alice Mercer.

The pioneer historian Cornelius Hanford comments on the Seattle settlement in the 1860s:
Life in the village was serious and strenuous.  The friendship of neighbors was the principal source of good cheer, dispelling gloom.  Neighbors visited each other, and those occasions were holidays for the visitors and the visited.  Evening prayer meetings, spelling schools, and singing schools were means of assembling the community, and occasionally, questions of public concern were debated at meetings of the library association, which existed without a library.
As the community grew there were regular church socials.  Chicken dinners, oyster suppers, and strawberry festivals were the most popular entertainments.  George Frye organized a dozen young men to buy and master the instruments.  The Seattle Brass Band turned out for every community event and infused the occasion with musical delights.

Without a doubt the Fourth of July celebration was the grandest event of the year for the pioneers.  Beginning in 1852, the day was observed with speeches, picnicking, and dancing on a wooden platform built just for the occasion.  The Native Americans, who attended the settlers’ party, called the event Hyas Sunday, as they did all of the settlers’ social gatherings.
The Fourth of July that the Denny girls remembered the best was held in the Methodist Protestant Church around 1864.  The Denny family was a little late in arriving and the orator had already launched into his speech.  Their commotion at the door of the church turned every head, and they beheld Inez, Madge, and Abbie marching down the aisle, each respectively dressed in red, white, and blue and proudly holding high a banner with mottos written with large letters cut out of the newspaper:  “Freedom for All,” “Slavery for None,” and “United we stand, divided we fall.”  Each motto was encircled with a bountiful wreath of fresh red, white, and blue flowers.  The girls were wildly applauded by the audience, composed mostly of young bachelors, who were by far the majority of the population.

Beginning in the 1860s there was a regular Christmas party held in Yesler’s Hall, attended by everyone in the community.  At one end of the hall was a curtain that was dramatically drawn aside at the critical moment to reveal a tall Douglas fir glowing from the light of hundreds of homemade tallow candles.  The graceful branches were festooned with strings of popcorn and local cranberries.  Henry Yesler wore a Santa suit that his wife Sarah had made for him, and handed out wonderful trinkets, many of which were not to be found in the Seattle mercantiles, but had been ordered from Victoria.
Louisa Boren Denny was asked on the fiftieth anniversary of the Denny Boren party’s arrival at Alki Point how the pioneers kept Christmas in the early years.  Louisa, 76, responded with her characteristic energetic good humor:
If you get up as good a Christmas dinner now as we could fifty years ago, I should like to help eat it.  Here is one the Indians would call hyas closh muck-a-muck:
Olympia Oysters, panned
Clam Soup
Fried Smelts
Grouse Pie
Roast Wild Goose — Giblet Sauce
Roast Haunch of Venison — Native Cranberry Sauce
Browned Potatoes — Creamed Carrots — Baked Squash
Huckleberry Pie — Cranberry Tarts — Clotted Cream
Coffee — Milk — Tea

In the 1860s two important lodges were formed, St. John’s Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and the Order of Good Templars.  The former did not involve north district settlers to any extent, but the latter was their organization.  In the Fall of 1865 Rev. A. C. McDougall came up to the frontier settlement from California and delivered a series of lectures on temperance at Headquarters Hall, the old Snoqualmie Hall on the second floor of Plummer’s Mercantile.
McDougall’s visit inspired many to increase their commitment to temperance, David and Louisa Denny among them.  Around the Dennys’ kitchen table the Independent Order of Good Templars, Seattle Lodge No. 6, was formed.  The settlers in the district north of Seattle were at the hub of the organization, with 20 percent of the charter members being from that area.  Officers were elected, including David Denny, Lodge Chaplain; William Hammond, Secretary; John Shoudy, Financial Secretary; Louisa Boren Denny, Treasurer; John H. Nagle, Marshall; Gertrude Boren, Inside Guard; and Inez Denny, Outside Guard.  The group met regularly to discuss temperance goals and ways it could advance them in Seattle.  Thirty years later this nucleus of temperance movement advocates would be at the center of a highly visible Prohibition political party championing the Queen Anne community’s needs at City Hall.

By the late 1860s there was still only a handful of settlers in the north district and game still roamed the area, although in ever smaller numbers.  In 1854 David Denny had killed a nine-foot cougar; however, few wild cats of this size were seen by the pioneers.  However, cougars were still common through the 1860s.  Around 1867 David killed one on the north side of the hill near John Ross’s homestead.  The half-grown cat had been dining on one of Dr. Smith’s sheep.  David reported that it was the color of a deer.  In September 1869 David Denny killed a 650-pound elk in the woods northwest of Green Lake.
John Wetmore, who was homesteading along Lake Washington, was having trouble with cougar attacking his herd of sheep.  He heard that Denny’s little dog Watch was a good hunter and came over to borrow the small fierce dog.  Watch successfully treed the cougar and remained below the tree all night.  However, the cat finally escaped only to be later captured with a trap.

In 1867 Dr. Henry Smith wrote a series of articles called “Reminiscences” for the Seattle Star.  In the November installment he commented on his hermit neighbors Ira Utter, David Stanley, and Osmine Frost.  He observed that all three of these mean suffered from mental disorders, resulting from too much social isolation in Smith’s opinion.  Throughout the 1860s Ira Utter, who lived north of Smith Cove on Salmon Bay, diligently improved his land and bought additional nearby parcels.  By 1869 he had become the largest landowner in the district north of Seattle, owning more land than even David and Louisa Denny.  His holdings included 850 acres located on Queen Anne Hill, Denny Hill, the cove, and Salmon Bay.
Utter never married and as the years went by he rarely went to Seattle and his neighbors saw less and less of him.  Of the neighbors, John Ross knew him best, but no one seemed to really know him.  Dr. Henry Smith says of his neighbor across Salmon Bay:
Ira W. Utter, the Salmon Bay hermit … was an educated man and more than ordinarily intelligent, but for twenty years he was the only white man on the north side of Salmon Bay and solitude finally soured his mind so that he became suspicious and censorious and finally deserted the throne, and he ended his days, I believe, in an eastern asylum.
On November 28, 1870, the Weekly Intelligencer announced the somber news that Ira Utter, age 46, “had been taken into custody on account of insanity, and his neighbor John Ross was appointed by the court as his guardian.”  On the same date it is noted that Utter had walked away from the county jail, where he was being cared for until his family arrived from the east coast.  On January 9, 1871, his brothers George and Francis Utter arrived from Bridgeport, New York, and after assisting Ira in putting his affairs in order took him back home with them.  He died in 1876 at age 51 in an asylum for the mentally ill.
The fate of Osmine Frost was not unlike that of Ira Utter.  Frost lived alone proving up his claim for 32 years.  His mental health deteriorated and he was sent by his neighbors to a mental institution in Portland.  After eight years he was released and, returning to Elliott Bay, hired a boatman to paddle him around the Magnolia shoreline as he searched for his land papers.  Before leaving for Portland he had buried under a large tree an iron box containing all his documents, including his donation claim patent.  Leaping suddenly from the boat into the water which was icy cold and chest-deep on the old man, Frost scrambled ashore and ran into the woods.  Although the tree was gone, he proclaimed he had found the spot, and after ten minutes of digging, the box of papers was in his lap.  Frost was jubilant.  He lived on the cove for a few more years, but the hard life and solitude seemed to have a deteriorating effect on his mental health.  Dr. Smith observed the following about his hermit neighbor:
Solitude soured him also [comparing him to Ira Utter], and to such an extent that in order to seclude himself as much as possible from all mankind and to shield himself from assassination at the hand of the Rev. Daniel Bagley, H. L. Yesler, A. A. Denny, and D. T. Denny, and other old timers equally harmless, he dug a cave on the hillside where he passed most of his time, until his brother-in-law came last Spring [1887] from the east, at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Bowman, and induced the old man to return with him.  Verily it is not good for man to live alone.
David Stanley does not appear to have been insane so much as highly eccentric.  He often appeared at his neighbors’ doorsteps, sometimes because his cabin had been stripped bare by the natives.  Each time this happened over the years his neighbors, the Dennys, Mercers, Rosses, and Petersons, furnished the old man with food, bedding, and sympathy.  Thus did he live year after year in his shanty on the beach at the mouth of Salmon Bay until his old age compelled him to accept the hospitality of friends.  It appears that he died while living in the home of an unnamed neighbor in the north district.
Thus, young and old, the little band of stalwarts in the wilderness lived out the days of the years far from the comforts and cares of “civilization,” their attention focused close to home on the needs of the season and their neighbors around the hill.

[61] Henry A Smith Home, 2827 15th Ave W.
By the Dreaming Shores
Lake Union in 1864
by Emily Inez Denny
On a pleasant day of early Spring in 1864, a pioneer was driving his team of grays with a stout farmer’s wagon on a road through the great forest of Western Washington Territory.  …  The little party was on its way to an inland body of water some distance from their small village of tidewater …  they walked along a narrow trail through dense woods to the shore.  Here they looked out over the placid water to see a primeval forest on every hand, and absolute wilderness.  From afar came the cry of a loon and an otter slipped into the water nearby and swam noiselessly away.
Here, indeed, were the Dreaming Shores.  The past eons had woven a marvelous dress like a rich mantle it hung from the shoulders of the hills and trailed its fringes in the waters.  There was not a mark of fire or axe, no human habitations, no improvements whatsoever. …  They saw on this fair day that all the trees and shrubs by a forward spring were in full array of fresh foliage and maple, dogwood, syringa, service berry, vine of honeysuckle crowded thickly among the green mass of dark green evergreen forest of fire, spruce, hemlock and cedar.
Thick forest they saw on all the Dreaming Shores and the surrounding hills.  No taint of smoke or dust was in the air.  No clamorous sound broke harshly on the ear.  Only the gay voice of the little children, the thrushes singing in their shadowy retreats, low-lapping of little waves, soft sighing of a breeze in the tree tops.

The Primeval Forest Burns
by Dr. Henry A. Smith (1830-1915)
As soon as the fire worked its way to the massive windrows of dry brush, piled in making roads in every direction, a circular wall of solid flame rose half way to the tops of the tall trees.  Soon the rising of the heated air caused strong currents of cooler air to set in from every side.  The air currents soon increased to cyclones.  Then began a race of the towering, billowy, surging walls of fire for the center.
Driven furiously on by those ever-increasing, eddying, and fiercely contending tornadoes the flames lolled and rolled and swayed and leaped, rising higher and higher, until one vast, circular tidal wave of liquid fire rolled in and met at the center with the whirl and roar of pandemoniac thunder and shot up in a spiral and rapidly revolving red-hot cone, a thousand feet in mid-air, out whose flaring and crater-like apex poured dense volumes of tarry smoke, spreading out on every side, like unfolding curtains of night, till the sun was darkened and the moon turned to blood and the stars seemed literally raining from heaven, as glowing firebrands that had been carried up by the fierce tornado of swirling flame and carried to immense distances by upper air currents, feel back in showers to the ground.
The vast tract, but a few moments before as quiet as a sleeping infant in its cradle. was now one vast arena of seething, roaring, raging flame.  The long, lithe limbs of the tall cedars were tossing wildly about, while the strong limbs of the sturdier firs and hemlocks were freely gyrating like the sinewy arms of might giant athletes engaged in mortal combat.  Ever and anon their lower, pitch-dripping branches would ignite from the fervent heat below, when the flames would rush to the very tops with the roar of contending thunders and shoot upward in bright silvery volumes from five to seven hundred feet, or double the height of the trees themselves.
Hundreds of these fire-volumes flaring and flaming in quick succession and sometimes many of them simultaneously, in conjunction with the weird eclipse-like darkness that veiled the heavens, rendered the scene one of awful grandeur never to be forgotten.

Business Around the Hill

Published 1993 by Queen Anne Historical Society, edited by Kay Reinartz PhD

Chapter Seventeen
“Business Around the Hill”
by Marina Gordon

So, the streetcars are gone… the little neighborhood grocery stores have given way to supermarkets, and Baskin & Robbins satisfies the ice cream cravings once treated at the corner soda fountains.  And Queen Anne Hill as we knew it then persists mainly in the fond memories of those of us who were there.
Stuart Prestrud,
Long-time Queen Anne resident

ca. 1930

Van de Kamp’s bakery, topped with a big windmill, opened at Mercer Street and Queen Anne Avenue in the 1920s and kept the neighborhood well-supplied with baked goods until the mid-1960s.

Queen Anne’s topography has been a major influence on the development of its business community.  Much of Queen Anne developed in the pre-automobile era and businesses sprang up along streetcar lines, which began snaking up and over the hill just after the turn of the century.  These routes were determined as much by engineering skills of the day as the geography being developed.
Business growth on the hill in the first half of the twentieth century followed some general trends.  A few large centers attracted shoppers from throughout the hill and the city, but it was the small, neighborhood-oriented shopping enclaves that met the residents’ daily needs.  Almost every neighborhood had its own grocer store, and many had a butcher shop, bakery, drug store, and beauty shop.  Three smaller neighborhood centers could be found at Fourth Avenue N. and Boston Street, near John Hay School; at Galer Street and Second Avenue N., the Queen Anne High School area; and at the intersection of Tenth Avenue W. and Howe Street.
Before World War I, most stores usually made deliveries of groceries by horse and wagon.  Drugstores made deliveries by bicycle, and others used foot delivery.   In the 1910s and 1920s, most businesses, grocery stores in particular, were smaller than they are today and often could survive by providing for only the people who lived within a few blocks.  As the popularity of the automobile (but not its reliability) rose in the 1920s, service stations sprang up and prospered.
The hardships of the Depression forced local business people to rely more on ingenuity and customers’ loyalties.  In 1933, Queen Anne News editor Clyde Dunn wrote, “Queen Anne is virtually a city in itself….  Just think what an outstanding business section we could build here … if the buying power of this vast number of people were concentrated in the community.  Buying at home is the quickest way to prosperity.”  Business owners did not rely solely on devotion to neighborhood stores to entice people to shop locally.  They came up with contests, drawings, and prizes to lure customers who might otherwise shop downtown.
Although businesses had to compete against each other to survive, they also banded together for strength and formed such organizations as the Queen Anne Merchants Club, the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce, and the Progressive Grocers Association.  The latter was a group of eleven businesses who shared purchasing, marketing, and advertising.  As the Depression came to an end, participation in these associations dwindled.  The war economy helped most of Queen Anne’s retail businesses, just as it did those nationwide, but rationing was difficult on some merchants.

Since the turn of the century thousands of businesses have opened and closed their doors on the hill.  Many businesses areas can be identified, but only the six primary ones are discussed here:  (1) Queen Anne Avenue between Galer and McGraw Streets; offshoots of Queen Anne onto (2) West Galer Street and (3) Boston Street; (4) McGraw Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue W.; (5) the Uptown area, bordered by Queen Anne Avenue, Mercer Street, and Denny Way; and (6) Nickerson Street from Queen Anne Avenue to the Ballard Bridge.  Each has grown and shrunk with the vagaries of population and cultural trends that endure to this day.
This chapter chronicles the history of long-term businesses on Queen Anne Hill, both past and present, that have operated for more than 35 years in the six business areas identified above.  Every effort was made to identify and contact all qualifying businesses, even those closed at the time of writing.  However, many businesses indicated that they were not interested in participating in this effort and did not submit a history.  Those histories which were submitted for Queen Anne businesses are presented here.

If Queen Anne is like a small town, Queen Anne Avenue is its Main Street.  Since the early 1900s, the top of Queen Anne Avenue from Lee Street to McGraw has been the backbone of the business community on the top of the hill.  The streetcars that were inaugurated soon after the turn of the century afforded people easy access to the hill’s main business artery.  Offshoots of the growth occurred on West Galer and Boston streets, coinciding with the arrival of the streetcar lines.  When strolling along Queen Anne Avenue in the early 1920s, one could see a fully developed, medium-sized business community with two pharmacies, three plumbing shops, Elchey’s Candy and Ice Cream store, a grocery store on almost every block, a number of bakeries, a beauty shop, and the Queen Anne Theater.
In the early years of Queen Anne’s growth, grocery stores on the hill were usually small, family-owned shops with the exception of Augustine and Kyer.  This posh store on Queen Anne Avenue and Galer Street employed many of the hill’s young men to deliver groceries.  The half-block-long store between Galer and Garfield Streets on the west side of the block catered to “all the people who had money,” claimed Fred Betts, a former delivery boy.  He described his job in the following manner:  “I would make about three trips a day delivering all over Queen Anne Hill.  I was the swamper part of the team.  A swamper stood back on the runner below the bumper, and the driver would stop near the house where the delivery was, and you’d grab ahold of the box and fun up to the house.  Then you’d turn around and run back and get back on the truck and go on to the next place.”  Augustine & Kyer closed during the Depression.
The Counterbalance Barber Shop began as the Queen Anne Barber Shop in 1910, later becoming Mike’s Barber Shop.  In 1980 Len Hagardt bought the barber shop and renamed it Counterbalance for the old counterweight trolley system that had run past the shop for 35 years before it was replaced in 1939.  Occupying the same space at 1424 Queen Anne Avenue since the building opened, the barber shop is an 80-year-old landmark business and one of the oldest barber shops in the city.
The Hilltop Tavern opened at 2129 Queen Anne Avenue N. in 1933, the year Prohibition was lifted, and was a Queen Anne source for spirits until its 1993 closing.  Above the bar hung a photo of the first Christmas the bar was open, revealing that though the neighborhood changed a great deal, the neighborhood tavern had not.

Cheerio Theater, 1926

Among Queen Anne’s longtime residents, two defunct movie theaters, the Queen Anne Theater and the Cheerio Theater, hold particularly strong memories.  The Queen Anne Theater at Queen Anne Avenue and Boston Street was advertised as “the first neighborhood theater in the country,” recalled Paul Mooney, “and this was not disputed from any quarter.  It opened Christmas day, 1911, with a French hand-colored religious picture (probably Pathe).  It was afterward operated by William Shaw.  Opening prices were ten cents for adults; five cents for children and take off your roller skates!”  The theater moved in the late 1920s, replacing the Cheerio Theater, 1929 Queen Anne Avenue.
Dolores Graham Doyle added her recollections:  “Saturday theater programs, cowboy serials, and cartoons at the two Queen Anne theaters kept many of the Magnolia kids off the street most of the day.  We went in groups and had a great time for just ten cents each!  Best of all was the post-show treat of double-dip ice creams for only a nickel.”

Standard Drug Company, 1910

Dr. Sam Standard owned much of the property on this corner when the hill was developing in the 1920s.  One of the centers on the top of the hill, the nearby shops offered most of life’s necessities, and many of the luxuries.  The corner boasted popular groceries, as well as two drugstores, many doctors, and a movie theater.  The Queen Anne News office was right down the block.
Salladay’s Drug (formerly Standard Drug) was founded by Dr. Sam Standard at the northeast corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Boston Street.  Elmer Salladay bought Standard Drug in 1956 after it had passed through a number of hands.  Salladay built the present store in 1968 and sold it in 1978 to Lois Roby.  Salladay has claimed that over the 20 years he owned the drugstore, his business got better and better every year, although he saw many other small pharmacies close.
Nick Muscynski, who owned and operated Standard Bakery, on Boston Street east of Queen Anne Avenue in the 1920s, was the shop’s earliest known owner.  In 1930 the new owner, a Mr. Anderson, earned a loyal following among the neighborhood children, whom coincidentally he always treated to donuts and cookies.  In 1993 Standard Bakery’s current owners, Mark and Dan Pavlovic, continue in that tradition, with the neighborhood’s children still very much involved in bakery commerce.  In addition, students of the Seattle Country Day School have brightened up the back rooms with large murals of Queen Anne.
Charles M. Brod moved the Standard Grocery to Boston Street near the drugstore from its location at 2132 Queen Anne Avenue N.  Retiring in 1963, Brod had been in the grocery business on Queen Anne for 50 years.  Paul Mooney characterized Broad as “the very last in he city of the ‘old telephone-order, deliver, 30-day-billing corner grocers’ and quite a man.”  Morris Mezistrano was one recipient of his kindness.  When he opened his own grocery, the S&M Market, at the corner of Boston Street and Queen Anne Avenue, he asked Brod for $50 to help get his business started.  “He lent me the money and wouldn’t let me pay him back.  He said this was my wedding present.”

Photo courtesy of Molly Aasten

Aasten’s Grocery, 300 Queen Anne Avenue, was a typical family-run corner grocery store — with a difference.  The Aastens sold very fresh produce all season long from their own store garden.  The large garden was behind the store and next to their home.  Molly Aasten, who worked in the store as did everyone in the family, recalls that the milk came from Kristofferson’s Dairy, Turner & Pease provided the eggs and butter, potatoes and onions came from Dahlgren’s on the waterfront, and most of the canned goods came from Schwabacher Bros.


Location has meant everything for businesses along W. Galer Street.  At the northern end of the old Counterbalance, business spilled in two directions, down Queen Anne Avenue N. and down W. Galer.  Businesses flourished along W. Galer to Fourth Avenue W. because of the streetcar line that ran from Sixth Avenue W. to Queen Anne Avenue N.
In 1925, a local could have had a suit pressed at the Queen Anne Pressery, shopped for groceries at Cook, Gregory & Company, gotten a haircut at Mr. Carter’s (after which , according to his ad, “She will think more of you and you will look better”), and picked up repaired shoes at Austin Banks (“Mender of Bad Soles; Surgeon to Old Shoes”).
M. J. Nelsen and his sister Elizabeth opened Nelsen’s Quality Grocery on the south side of W. Galer Street and 4th Avenue W. in 1919.  In the 1930s and 1940s M.J.’s sons, Fred and Don, joined the family business, which was moved across Fourth Avenue W.  Fred  Nelsen retired in the 1980s and Don has continued to operate the store.  Nelsen’s Quality Grocery has the distinction of being the oldest family business on Queen Anne Hill.

There were many hangouts for Queen Anne High students on W. Galer.  Among the most fondly remembered was Al’s Hamburgers, located on W. Galer and Queen Anne Avenue N.  First opened in 1926, by the 1950s Alexander Gordon had moved his business to 1517 Queen Anne Avenue N.  Paul Mooney described Gordon as “a man of great resistance, contending with those generations of high school characters, and a friend and confidante to all of them”  Others are more apt to remember the 15-cent hamburgers.

The Grizzly Inn, across the street from Queen Anne High, was a home away from home for many students.  Dee Simmons Hopworth recalled that in the early 1940s, “The Grizzly Inn was north of the school and became our headquarters.  George Lammereaux owned the Inn and was good to the students.  He employed them, sheltered them from the attendance office ‘spies,’ and allowed the bricks in the fireplace at the west end of The Inn to be painted with our names.”  Such an honor was not free.  Another Queen Anne student remembers paying 50 cents to have her named painted on the bricks over the fireplace.

By the 1920s the enclave along West McGraw Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues W. was a thriving district.  Mary M. Bauders remembers, “We had our own little district between Sixth and Seventh W. on West McGraw — a drug store, shoe repair, dry cleaners, gift store, bakery, service station, grocery stores, a dime store, barber shop, and at one time a florist and hardware store.”  The grocers were guaranteed almost daily visits from the local homemakers.
James Kildall opened Kildall’s in 1938 at 820 W. Halladay Street as a real estate business.  He later moved to 510 W. McGraw Street and expanded the services to provide insurance, safety deposit boxes and money orders.  His son Tom now runs the business.  May M. Bauders vividly remembered that “the sight of the large steel door at the back of the establishment was very awesome to the eyes of a child.”
Rex Miller opened the Laurel Beauty Salon in the 1930s at 1529 Queen Anne Avenue near Galer Street.  By 1960 Miller had moved three times and was settled at 623 W. McGraw Street, where the beauty shop has survived four changes of ownership.  Since 1987 Litsa Polychronopoulos has operated the salon as Litsa’s West McGraw Street Salon.
At the corner of W. McGraw Street and Seventh Avenue W. for more than 40 years, Maughan’s Pharmacy was originally part of the Jamison chain of drug stores.  Maughan sold the store to Bernie Hoover, who changed its name to Queen Anne Pharmacy and moved it t the corner of W. McGraw Street and Sixth Avenue W.  Chuck Paulson is the current owner.
The ovens in the McGraw Street Bakery have been in almost continuous use since 1924, the dated that is stamped on them.  The original founders of the bakery are unknown, but in 1930 the bakery was operated first by Chris Anderson and then by Frank and Virginia Mock, who changed its name to Banks and Mock Bakers.  Mary Bauders remembers, during the years of World War II, “We would stand in line for bread during the rationing period, because of the scarcity of ingredients such as eggs, flour, shortening, and especially sugar.  The bakery had lots of goodies after the rationing ended.”  In the 1950s the Mocks sold the bakery to Chuck Sylvester and his wife who renamed it Sylvester’s Queen Anne Bakery.  Jessica Reisman currently operates the old landmark as the McGraw Street Bakery.
Chuck Gerrish and Bob Garrison opened Quality Fruits and Vegetables on Sixth Avenue W. near West McGraw Street in 1932 with an investment of $500 between them.  Gerrish recalls that opening a business in the middle of the Depression did not yield much profit and that grocers could not charge much for food.  In 1940 they moved to 600 W. McGraw, replacing Ben Franklin Grocery and Meats.  The new store was three times larger than the previous one and the new partner was Ing Taigen.
A&J Meats opened at the corner of Sixth Avenue West and W. McGraw Street in 1951 inside Quality Market and was named for its owners, Al Ploe and Jerry Friar.  Rick Friar, the current owner and son of its co-founder, recalls that the clientele grew so large over the first 20 years that A&J’s original location was no longer adequate.  In 1970 they moved to their current location at McGraw Street and Queen Anne Avenue.
Reliable French Cleaners opened in 1920 on the north side of W. McGraw Street.  Early ownership records are lost.  However, a Mr. Clark acquired it in the early 1940s and moved the establishment into a bigger building across the street.  After two changes of ownership Charles and Anne Hoen, former employees of the shop, bought the business in November 1952.  The cleaners had become more than just a business to the Hoens; it had sentimental significance.  In 1946 Charles and Anne became engaged and were married in the shop.  After Charles’s death in 1973 Anne ran the business alone until 1971, when she sold it.
Down the block, at the five-way intersection of W. McGraw Street, W. McGraw Place, and Third Avenue W., sits the tiny Five Corners enclave, which developed as a convenient midpoint between the larger business areas at Queen Anne and Sixth avenues.  Five Corners Hardware has been an anchor store here since 1940, when “Uncle Sam Jr.” Jensen began business with $500 in insurance money he had collected in compensation for losing a finger.  Sam Jr. joined the business in 1944 and, after World War II, two sons joined the family business.  In 1961 Jim Forkey bought the store, and his daughter Jean has operated it since 1987.

7th Ave W & McGraw St, 1937

Since the 1910s Nickerson Street has been lined with light industry.  Scattered along Nickerson east of the Ballard Bridge have been businesses in boat moorage, construction and repair, milling and wood products, and others.
Northwest Millwork began producing cabinets, doors, and other wood products in 1958, under the direction of Frank Stipek, whose son Ronald is a co-owner today.  The commercial demand for their products has not diminished since the booming 1950s, when the University of Washington, hotels, resorts, banks, and schools made up the bulk of their clients.  Since the early 1990s many of Northwest Millwork’s products have been exported to Pacific Rim customers.  Nordquist & Engstrom, which has been in business for one hundred years, began at the corner of Third Avenue W. and Nickerson Street, which is now the site of Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion.  The business is not a part of Northwest Millwork.

After owning a number of garages along Fifth Avenue, weathering the Depression, and having to close up shop during World War II, Frank Pantley opened Frank Pantley Auto Rebuild at 113 Dexter Avenue North in 1946.  He remained in this building until 1968, when Virg Fuhrman, who bought the shop from Pantley in 1957, relocated the business to 225 Roy Street, where it closed in early 1993.
In 1955, when Dag’s first began serving hamburgers on Aurora Avenue N., hamburgers were 19 cents; fries, 11 cents; and shakes, 14 cents.  Brothers Boe and Edmund Messett founded Dag’s, with the Dag Beefy Boy logo, on the grounds of the Sunset Monument Company, which the Messetts owned.  Named in honor of their father, Boe Messett recalls that their philosophy of a quality product delivered with fast, friendly service delivered from a neat and clean kitchen won immediate support from Queen Anne residents and all of Seattle, as well as set an industry standard.  Dag’s closed in 1993.

[88] William O McKay Co, Westlake and Mercer. “Used Car Department”
The company would send out its service car to help troubled motorists.

The south slope of Queen Anne in the twentieth century has become known as the Uptown district and is something of a satellite to downtown Seattle.  In the late 1880s, following residential migration from the center of Seattle to the hill, businesses that served the home quickly sprouted along lower Queen Anne Avenue N., First Avenue N., and Mercer Street.  Polk’s Directory reveals that by the 1910s grocery shops, butchers, a restaurant, a dry cleaners, and a dye works were operating in the area.
There is consensus among longtime Queen Anne residents that Uptown has been a transitory neighborhood in the twentieth century, one to which these people often do not have close ties.  Those who were raised in the Uptown district are likely to recall a great deal of class-consciousness; rich people lived on top of the hill, workers closer down.  Those who grew up on the top of the hill tend to disagree.  They acknowledge social stratification but do not feel that this created problems.  The young people had opportunities to play and interact with each other without worrying about their parents’ positions, geographic or otherwise.
July 1 has been a lucky day for the Smiths.  Preston and Frances Smith opened the Five-Point Cafe on Cedar Street on July 1, 1929 and The Mecca Cafe at 526 Queen Anne Avenue North on July 1, 1930.  Their son Dick Smith took over on July 1, 1974.  The end of prohibition saw The Mecca boom, with sales as high as 75 kegs of beer a day.  In 1991 Preston Smith, then 86 years old, recalled the depression era struggles and World War II shortages and noted, “I didn’t have enough sense to quit.”
Green’s Tavern is probably best remembered for having occupied a well-known Queen Anne landmark, the historic Denny Real Estate log cabin on Republican Street and Queen Anne Avenue.  Green’s had opened in the same building as the Uptown Theater in 1927 before later moving to the log cabin.
In 1920 the Marqueen Garage, then known as the Kuay Garage, opened, claiming to be “the largest single garage in the city.”  For more than 50 years, the garage and its “doctors of motors” serviced cars from the Queen Anne location between Roy and Mercer streets, in the building of the Seattle Engineering School which operated the garage.  The building is now the Marqueen Apartments.  The school was begun to retrain blacksmiths to work at the Ford assembly plant at the south end of Lake Union.  Hugo Hustwayte and Fred Myers bought the garage in 1950, took in partner Kurt Arnold, and changed the name to Marqueen.  Upon retirement of his partners, in 1977 Arnold became the sole owner, and in 1979 moved the garage to the top of the hill.
Edwin and Josephine Anderson opened the Olympic Grocery on Queen Anne Avenue south of Mercer Street in 1928, where it shared a building with Busy’s Meat Market.  At that time a Seattle city ordinance forbade selling meats and groceries in the same establishment.  Thus, if a grocery store customer wanted meat, the Andersons would call the order over the half-wall that divided the two shops, and Busy would toss the wrapped meat over.  There were many other grocers in the area, so the Andersons kept the store open from noon to midnight, seven days a week, whereas most of their competitors closed at five or six o’clock.  Olympic Grocery moved twice, to Mercer Street between First Avenue N. and Queen Anne Avenue in 1937, and then to 118 W. Mercer Street.  The Andersons closed the store in 1965, when they leased the space to Brownie’s Tavern.
Lou Bunich opened Scissor’s Place Barber & Style Shop at 10 W. Mercer Street in 1945, and it has remained there to this day, though the business has been renamed Bert & Lou’s Barber and is co-owned with Tony Romero.
Rudd Paint, at 1630 15th Avenue W., on the west side of lower Queen Anne, began life in 1912.  It was bought out by Donald M. Cummings in 1942 and subsequently operated by Alan M. Park in the mid-50s.  As the Rudd Co., Inc. it continues today with Alan M. Park, Jr. as president.
Along Elliott Avenue Blackstock Lumber made its appearance at 545 Elliott Avenue W. in 1930.  It had been located at 2325 Western Avenue between Battery and Bell streets since 1912 when Carl Blackstock purchased the old Lee Lumber and Mfg. Company.  A major fire in September 1941 required extensive rebuilding.  In December 1988 they moved to their current location at 1039 Elliott Avenue W.  The old lumber yard, empty and no longer Blackstock’s, was swept by fire in September 1989, claiming the life of a Seattle firefighter.  Carl’s sons, Ray and Carl, operated the store for many years.  Since 1988 it has been owned by Ray’s two sons, Jim and Scott Blackstock.
The Queen Anne Stationery & Office Supply, 524 First Avenue N., was originally a portrait studio owned by Frank and Josie Pomeroy.  In 1950 the Pomeroys opened the first formal office supply store on Queen Anne, eventually expanding to include a Hallmark card and gift store.  Harry and Irene Tenneson purchased the store in 1976 in partnership with Chris and Jane Bihary.  It is now owned by the Biharys and Keith and Sally Brooks.

Marion Parker, who grew up on Queen Anne, left the community in 1944 and returned in 1958 to find that drug stores had consolidated and more large grocery stores had been built.  In addition, several small grocery stores had consolidated or closed, and the movie theater had become a popular bowling alley.  Queen Anne Avenue N., although a strong business magnet since the inauguration of streetcars, was fully coming into its own in the 1950s when centralization was the order of the day.
The Safeway store was first opened at the corner of Blaine Street and Queen Anne Avenue N., and then moved to First Avenue N. and Mercer Street in the 1950s.  In 1961, the supermarket moved back to the top of the hill, to its present location on Queen Anne Avenue N. between Boston and Crockett streets.   A second Safeway at First Avenue W. and Mercer Street opened in 1952.
The Zorich brothers — Joe, Marty, and Sam — opened their 12,000-square foot Thriftway in 1960, but the next year it was dwarfed by the new Safeway nearby, which had more than twice the square footage.  Dick Rhodes bought the store in 1974, and maintained a commitment to the basics:  a clean store, pleasant employees, and lots of service.  In order for Thriftway to compete with its larger neighbor, Rhodes remodeled and expanded the store in 1981.  He kept a close ear to the customers, feeling that the store would compete best if it responded to changes in the community.
Don Nelsen, owner of Nelsen’s Grocery, thought the World War II and post-War years  were the most prosperous for West Galer businesses.  During the 1940s, he remembers numerous small groceries, a pharmacy, two gas stations, and a garage on the street.  Then, Nelsen says, business declined in the 1960s.  He offered two reasons:  “Everything centralizing on Queen Anne Avenue North, West Queen Anne and Queen Anne High School closing hurt us more than anything; there are hardly any kids around here anymore.”
Down in the Ross district the loss of the small business community came early.  By the early 1930s most of the small businesses clustered around Nickerson Street and Third Avenue W. had closed, never to reopen.  Most businesses that continue to line Nickerson are light industries geared toward the construction trade — same as in the earlier days.  Since the 1980s professional office buildings have been built along the Ship Canal from the Fremont Bridge to Cremona Street.
The Uptown area has been a busy district for almost a century, and until the World’s Fair, was composed of “mom and pop” stores and small businesses catering to residents in the immediate area.  To make way for the Fair, many homes and a school were torn down.  In the years since, apartment buildings have increased and the area has become high-density, with many restaurants, theaters, shops, and parking lots.  Although many long-time residents dislike the crowds and crime that come with group, as a business district it is thriving.

Marina Gordon is an editor, freelance writer, and newcomer to Queen Anne.  She often amazes friends and relatives with her ability to recite the location and history of almost any business on the Hill.

Remembering Queen Anne’s Neighborhood Grocery Stores:
*Mulholland’s Cash Grocery
*Augustine & Kyer
*Dick’s Drive-In Predecessor – the Motor-In Market
*S&M Market
*Nelsen’s Grocery (1919-2001)