Information and photographs for the history of Kent and the White River Valley were provided by the Greater Kent Historical Museum with excerpts from the book: History of Kent and Kent Valley Condensed Version by Clarence B. Gagley. Additional photographs were provided by the White River Valley Museum and the Museum of History & Industry.
Titusville's Early Settlers
In the spring of 1853, Samuel Russell arrived in White River Valley by canoe, sailing up the Duwamish and White rivers, until he found a claim less than a mile southeast of downtown Kent. Other settlers and families followed in Russell's path, arriving by canoe or through the recently opened Naches Pass. In the beginning, the community was first called Titusville because of an early settler James Henry Titus. The town was initially two separate communities. One was platted in 1884 by Henry L. Yesler, Seattle's first sawmill operator and the other in 1888 by John Alexander and Ida L. Guiberson. Later, Ezra Meeker was consulted by the Northern Pacific Railroad for naming its station. Meeker suggested that the "Hop Capitol of the West" be called Kent after England's hop-growing center and the name Titusville was replace with Kent.
White River Massacre
When Isaac Stevens assumed governorship and the position of Superintendent of Indian Affairs of Washington Territory in 1853, he quickly signed treaties with the Native Americans to open up land for white settlers. The Skope-ahmish, Smalh-kamish, and St-kah-mish peoples living in the White River Valley area were included in the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855 and ordered to move to a reservation with their traditionally enemies.
Ignoring tribal tensions, settlers continued to move into the area. The Native Americans living in the valley turned to their friends living east of the Cascades. On October 27, 1855, the White River Indians attacked the settlers and killed nine, giving that day the name "White River Massacre." Skirmishes continued for another year until March 10, 1856, when the war west of the Cascades ended with the defeat of Chief Leschi and his band of tribes. The upper White and Green River Valley Indians surrendered and were relocated to the Muckleshoot Prairie. A new treaty was written which provided the establishment of the Muckleshoot reservation.
The first introduction of hops in Kent has been a disagreement. One source claims that Richard Jeffs and James Jeremiah Crow first brought the roots to Ezra Meeker's farm in Puyallup. Another earlier source stated that Patrick Hayes first planted nine acres of hops on his farm in 1875, and the following year C. M. Van Doren put in 20 acres.
Hops was first planted in the area in 1878 by James Jeremiah Crow who obtained the roots from Ezra Meeker in Puyallup. The hop craze took the valley by storm. Cheap to produce, hops commanded a high price on the market due to the blight in Europe. Hop farms and hop kilns blossomed throughout the valley, making many farmers very wealthy. By 1888, the hops in this region reached production at nearly 1 million pounds. In 1891 aphid destroyed most of the crops. Nevertheless, the need to transport hops to market was the catalyst that transformed transportation routes in the valley.
Early Transportation and Railroads
Although a Military Road between Seattle and Fort Steilacoom was opened in 1853, it could only be traveled in the summer. In the 1860s, the flat-bottom scows provided another outlet of transportation; however, a trip to Seattle could take four days. These flat bottom scows were poled or sailed from makeshift landings to trading points around Elliot Bay. Most scows operated once a month and their arrivals in Seattle loaded down with White River produce. Some of the well known scows where named the Minne Ha Ha, the Decatur and the Black Diamond. By 1870, river scows gave way to steamboats. More than 15 steam-powered vessels operated over the course of the White River in a 17 year period. At its peak five or six sternwheelers regularly plied the stream, serving settlers from Thomas Alvord's ranch to the lower reached of the Duwamish.
Though there were earlier steam-powered vessels on the river, the steamboat Comet was the first specifically adapted to the difficult channel. The Comet's master, Captain Simon P. Randolph, pioneered the river trade by dragging the channel for snags in 1870's. Captain James Crow began his maritime career on the Comet, but by about 1882, profits from his hop ranch enable him to purchase the Lily. He piloted the Lily, until the railroad became fully operational in 1887.
In 1883, work began on the rail line through the valley that connected the Northern Pacific, owned by Henry Villard. Before the rail was completed, Villard resigned and The Northern Pacific was acquired by pro-Tacoma, anti-Seattle interests and the branch line soon became known as the Orphan Road, due to its neglect. In 1887, the Northern Pacific moved its terminus from Tacoma to Seattle; this rail became a reliable means of transportation in the valley.
In addition to farming hops, logging also provided a source of income for the settlers. In 1881 the Kent Lumber Company began clearing the East Hill. Mill Creek was another sawmill owned by Peter Saar and Company. This logging tradition continued for another 40 year and was Kent's principal source of industry.
Business and Commerce
The White River post office was established at David A. Neely's place. The first hotel in the White River Valley area was "The Titusville House" built in 1884 and located at 1st Ave and Meeker Street. A drug store and a blacksmith shop also opened, bringing more business to the area. The Kent Water Company began operation in 1888 and pumped water from a spring on the Crow farm on East Hill.
Formal education began in the valley by 1869, when White River settlers organized as School District No.3. The first classes were held in a log building on the river near John Langston's store. Miss Vina Gifford was the first teacher, and she had thirteen students from the Alvord, Graham, Crow, Willis, Blair, and Watson families.
Eventually, James Crow donated an acre of his farm to the district and a new school was built. Until 1881, valley children attended classes for only three summer months out of the year.
Territorial Towns or Settlements
Christopher - A small community located a mile and a half north of Auburn. It was founded in 1863 by Thomas Christopher and a post office was established in 1887.
Georgetown - Originally platted by Julius Horton in 1890, and named for his son George M. Horton. The original name of this region was Duwamish.
O'Brien - This settlement was located two and a half miles north of Kent. It was settled in 1868 by the Morgan and Terence O'Brien, originally populated by Irish Irish Catholics. The post office was established in 1861 and was called White River Post Office. Several years later, the post office moved to Langston's Landing which was where the first school opened in 1869.
Orillia - This community was located on the Duwamish River about 12 miles south of Seattle. Orinally settled in 1853 by Henry Adams, Orillia was first known as Adam's Claim. This community was named by settler Malcolm McDougall in 1887 for his home town in Simcoe County, Ontario. This Spanish word means "lesser shore".
Maddocksville - An early settlement on the bank of the White River, which was 17 miles south of Seattle, and named for M. B. Maddocks. It once boasted two churches, a school and a general store.
Slaughter - Slaughter was platted by Dr. Levi Ward Ballard in 1886 and was named Slaughter in honor of Lieut. William A. Slaughter, who was killed during the Indian Uprising of 1855-1856. Local settlers petitioned to change the name to Slaughter because the local hotel was referred to as the Slaughter House. The name was petitioned to the State Legislature to substitute the name for Auburn in 1893.
Titusville - Titusville was settled by James Henry Titus, the town was originally two separate communities[b1]. One was platted in 1884 by Henry L. Yesler,Seattle's first sawmill operator and the other in 1888 by John Alexander and Ida L. Guiberson. Ezra Meeker was consulted by the Northern Pacific Railroad For naming its station. Meeker suggested that the "Hop Capitol of the West" be called Kent after England's hop-growing center.
Thomas - This settlement was between Kent and Auburn 18 miles south of Seattle. In 1853, a former Kentuckian John M. Thomas, settled in the White River Valley. Before this community was named for him, John called his place Pialsche for a local Native American.