Mukilteo Sesquicentennial Section
The year 2010 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of Mukilteo, the first seat of Snohomish County. Next year, 2011, marks the sesquicentennial of the county itself. To mark the first of these sesquicentennials this issue of the Sounder features three articles on early Mukilteo. In 2001 Joyce WANS, then of the Mukilteo Historical Society, established the date of the city’s founding; her article is reprinted by permission. The histories of the Pioneer Cemetery, and the veterans buried therein, are by Margaret Robe Summitt.
When Was Mukilteo REALLY Founded?
Probably the biggest unanswered question in Mukilteo’s history is: When was Mukilteo settled by Jacob D. FOWLER and Morris H. FROST? Different years have been quoted in various histories and articles, but the authors didn’t say where their information came from. We could never verify the information for ourselves.
We know the Point Elliott Treaty was signed in 1855 but was not ratified until 1859. That means Mukilteo was Indian territory until 1859. It is very unlikely that experienced businessmen would establish themselves on land they couldn’t own. But when did they settle in Mukilteo?
The founding was before 1863 because Mukilteo is mentioned in the 1863 edition of Hand-Book Almanac for the Pacific States, published in San Francisco by H. H. BANCROFT & Co. Also there is an article in Volume 1, Number 1, of The Seattle Gazette, dated December 10, 1863, that describes a visit to Mukilteo and the buildings and businesses found there.
We can narrow it down to before 1861 as Snohomish was designated a county with Mukilteo as its county seat in January 1861.
The Oregon Washington and Idaho Gazette and Business Directory for 1884-85, published by R. L. POLK & Co. and A. C. DANSER in Chicago in 1884, mentions in the description of Mukilteo that it was settled in 1859.
The History Company, San Francisco, published in 1890 a series of books entitled The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft. These works were based on the accumulated notebooks of researchers who traveled in Washington, Idaho, and Montana investigating the history of those areas. Volume XXXI includes on page 368 the statement about Morris H. FROST: “In 1861 he removed to Mukilteo with Jacob D. FOWLER…”
An Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, published by Interstate Publishing Company in 1906, skirts the founding date issue on page 369 by describing Mukilteo as “one of the very oldest towns in Snohomish County.”
Twenty years later William WHITFIELD was the supervising editor for History of Snohomish County Washington. Mukilteo has no specific founding date in this work either.
Louisa SINCLAIR, daughter of Jacob D. FOWLER, was interviewed for Told by the Pioneers, Volume II, dated 1938. She reminisces about her childhood but doesn’t give any founding date.
A ten-page outline of Mukilteo history from 1792 to 1965 was found with Barbara CHAMBERLAIN’s papers following her death. The author is not identified but it is likely a document produced by the Historical Society. It includes a founding year of “1857 (circa)” as the third entry in the listing.
The Mukilteo Cemetery, another Society document, compiled by Karen HIRTE in 1996, states in the biography of Jacob D. FOWLER that he and FROST established Mukilteo in August of 1858.
In 1984 the Conning Company published a book by Robert M. HUMPHREY entitled Everett and Snohomish County: A Pictorial History. On page 39 Mr. HUMPHREY tells us “One of the earliest settled spots on Puget Sound, Mukilteo was first settled in 1858…”
So, if we want to accept the word of various published sources, we can use 1857, 1858, 1859, or 1861 as the founding year for Mukilteo.
Instead of blindly accepting one date or another, let’s do a little research. There aren’t a lot of documents to help answer this question but there are enough. Let’s start with the 1860 Federal Census.
The 1860 census was taken as of June 1st of that year. J. D. FOWLER is listed on Whidbey Island as a 27-year-old male born in New York. He is a hotel keeper with no real estate but the value of his personal estate is $500. FOWLER’s age was significantly rounded up on this listing as he was actually much closer to 22 years of age.
M. H. FROST is listed in the City of Port Townsend as a 54-year-old male born in New York. He is Collector of Customs whose real estate is valued at a whopping $5,000 and his personal estate is valued at $1,200.
The census places our research targets outside of Mukilteo as of June 1, 1860.
Several of the previously mentioned histories refer to FROST and FOWLER “claiming” land in Mukilteo or discussing the locations of their “claims.” Sometimes these terms are used loosely, much as today when we speak of “the old homestead” and we really just mean our parents’ or grandparents’ home that they purchased and did not legally homestead.
In hopes that FROST and FOWLER really were homesteaders under the law, I went directly to land records. I read over the original plat books at the local National Archives branch and learned that, sure enough, they had acquired legal title to their lands under the Homestead Act of 1862. The plat book shows that FROST filed for a total of 159 acres and FOWLER for 157.51 acres.
The locations of their original claims are roughly overlaid on the map of Mukilteo. The markings of the old maps and the new don’t line up clearly on this map but it gives you the idea. Remember that the shape of the shoreline has changed since 1863, for instance when the area at the State Park was diked and the big pier was added. These changes result in FROST’s portion appearing larger than it was in the 1860s. FROST later bought many more acres of land from the government.
The Homestead Act of 1862 was a wonderful opportunity for settlers in the old West to receive up to 160 acres of land in exchange for small fees and lots of sweat equity. Today the resulting documents are a wonderful treasure trove for researchers. The folder of papers for each applicant is neatly filed at the National Archives in Washington, D. C. in the section called Land Entry Records. The plat books provided enough detail to be able to order the appropriate Land Entry Records from the Archives.
The very first time the government sells land, the owner gets a patent. After that the documents for resales are called deeds. Both FROST and FOWLER began the process of acquiring the patents to their land on July 8, 1863, at the Land Office in Olympia, Washington Territory. On that day in 1863 they completed their applications stating the legal description of the land and the total number of acres. They also had to sign affidavits verifying that each was an American citizen over 21 years of age and that the purpose of their claims was for actual settlement and not directly or indirectly for the benefit of another person.
FOWLER paid his fee of $11.97 and FROST paid $11.99. Then they had to wait five years, clearing land, cultivating crops, constructing buildings, and living on their claims.
Then in 1869 they “proved up” their claims. Once again they had to travel to Olympia to do the paperwork and pay more fees. FOWLER paid $1.97 and FROST paid $1.99. Each proof required sworn statements by two “persons of respectability” that each claimant had faithfully met the requirement of the Act. The settler himself had to swear out an “Affidavit Required of Homestead Claimants, Acts of May 20, 1862 and June 21, 1866” as well.
It is this document that answers the big question for us. FROST and FOWLER themselves tell us exactly when they first arrived in Mukilteo. FOWLER swears that he actually settled on the land and has resided there since September 1860. FROST’s affidavit specifies that he actually settled on the land and has resided there since the third day of July 1860.
So now we know the answer! Mukilteo was first settled on July 3, 1860. We get this information on the very best of authority: FROST’s and FOWLER’s own sworn statements.
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