Puyallup Area

Generous People
Early Settlers
Early Education
Fort Carson - Post Office
Hop Industry
Incorporation of a City

Information for the history of Puyallup was provided by the City of Puyallup with excerpts from the book: Puyallup: A Pioneer Paradise, by Lori Price and Ruth Anderson. Photographs were provided by the Beta Collection, Puyallup Public Library.

View of Puyallup

Generous People

The Puyallup River Valley has been populated for 10,000 years. The first inhabitants depended on salmon as their main food source, supplemented by freshwater fish, clams, hazelnuts, berries, and wapato, and camas roots. They lived in shed-like homes 80' to 100' long made of cedar. The home was shared by many family generations. The people who lived along the river were described as "generous people" by other tribes who traded with them. This is the origin of the name Puyallup.

Life along the river began to change as Europeans migrated to the Puyallup area. The Hudson Bay Company established trading posts throughout the northwest. Fort Nisqually was the last of these posts to be established. It was from Fort Nisqually that the first white man came to the Puyallup Valley. In 1833 Dr. William Tolmie traveled through the valley on his way to Mt. Rainier.

Early Settlers

The first white settlers were part of the first wagon train to cross the Cascades at Natches Pass in 1853. During the Native American War of 1855-56, following the signing of the controversial Medicine Creek Treaty, many of these settlers fled to Fort Steilacoom for protection. The only structure spared was the cabin of Willis and Maryann Boatman whose son, John William, was the first white child born in the Valley.

Ezra Meeker in front of his home

After the war, settlers were slow to return to the Valley. In 1859, James Stewart came to Steilacoom from Oregon when had been farming, logging, teaching school and serving as a deputy sheriff. His cousin, Linus Brownson, operated a gristmill three miles from Steilacoom, and James there was first-class land in the river bottoms around Puget Sound, particularly in the Puyallup Valley. He soon took out a homestead claim south of the Carson claim. The land was covered with cottonwood, alder, vine maple, crabapple and heavy growth of salmonberry. James built a small cabin of logs. This was the first claim registered in the Puyallup Valley following the Indian Uprising. Shortly after, this other settlers began to come for the first time. Among these was John Valentine Meeker, the brother of Ezra Meeker, and his family. The Meekers came via ship in 1859. He stayed with Stewart and a year later, he filed a claim on the property adjoining Stewart's land.

Sometime in 1862, Jeremiah Stilley sold his squatter claim to Ezra Meeker, who had rejected the Valley as a place to liver nearly 10 years before. Ezra and Oliver Meeker had joined with their father, Jacob, in a mercantile venture in Steilacoom during the Indian Uprising. He convinced his brother, Ezra Meeker, to take another look at the valley he had rejected 10 years earlier.

Early Education

Puyallup schoolhouse, 1884

In 1861, the first school was established in the blockhouse officially named Fort Maloney, but better known as Fort Carson because John and Emma Carson were using it as a home. Mrs. Carson was the teacher. She had six students. In 1862 a real school was established on land donated by J. P. Stewart. In 1874 a growing population needed a new school building. This was also built on Stewart land. By 1886, this school had been outgrown and the Central School was built. Today the Puyallup School District has 31 schools, 1,255 teachers, and 19,795 students.

Fort Carson - Post Office

In 1862 a post office was established at Fort Carson, through the efforts of J.P. Stewart. John Carson was the postmaster. Stewart named the office Franklin after the town in New York where he grew up. In 1874 the post office was divided. Darius M. Ross received the mail at his house for "Puyallup". Those north of the river still received for "Franklin".

Hop kilns, 1888

Hop Industry

After the Civil War, Charles Wood of Olympia, who operated a brewery, brought hops from England and sent some to Jacob Meeker. The first harvest brought in $185. Shortly afterwards everyone wanted to plant hops. By 1884, over 100 farmers were growing hops. When family labor was not enough to bring in the harvest, Native Americans from as far away as British Columbia came to work. When these were not enough, Chinese workers came to help. The harvest was 3,000 pounds per acre. Ezra Meeker formed his own hop brokerage business and became known as the "Hop King of the World". Hop lice appeared in 1891. Despite efforts to kill the lice, the hop boom was over in less than a year.

Incorporation of a City

Downtown Puyallup

During the prosperity of the hop years, Ezra Meeker platted a town on 20 acres of his land, giving it the name Puyallup. J.P. Stewart immediately followed with three 20-acre plats north of Meeker's plat. Additional plats by Meeker and others doubled the size of the town by 1888. The "corporation" of Puyallup was formed. The first ordinance dealt with the licensing of "drinking shops". The corporation acquired land, laid out new streets, built wooden sidewalks, and generally acted like a real town council. However, in February 1890, after Washington Territory became a state, the Supreme Court of Washington declared the corporation of Puyallup illegal. An election held on August 16, 1890, approved the proposition for incorporation under the new state laws. Three days later the county commissioners filed the order of incorporation with the Secretary of State and the City of Puyallup became official.

Berry pickers

The economy of the Valley suffered after the hop lice disaster and the worldwide economic depression of the 1890s. In place of hops, Valley farmers planted blackberries and raspberries. Eventually the Puyallup and Sumner Fruit Growers Association was formed, canneries were built, and thousands of pounds of fruit were shipped across the country and around the world. Dairy farms, poultry farmers, lumber mills, and daffodil farms also contributed to Puyallup's economy.

Today, no longer an agrarian community, Puyallup still reflects its agricultural roots with the annual Western Washington Fair, one of the top 10 fairs in the world, and the Daffodil Festival with its floral parade held each year in April.