Diablo Dam incline railway climbing Sourdough Mountain, 1930. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 2306.
Children waving to ferry, 1950. Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.
Loggers in the Northwest woods. Courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.
This Week Then
This week HistoryLink features new articles related to some significant people in Tacoma's past. These essays were made possible by a Heritage Project Grant from the City of Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission, and we are very thankful for their support.
We begin with Puyallup Tribal member Henry Sicade, who was born in 1866 and grew up just after the treaty negotiations between tribes and the U.S. government over ceding Indian lands had been resolved, leaving tribal communities to contend with continued assimilation and non-Native settlement. As an adult, Sicade leveraged political and social seats of power to bring about change for the Puyallup Tribal community.
William Rust began his career in the Colorado mining industry and moved to Tacoma in 1889 to manage a new smelter on the shores of Commencement Bay. Over the next two decades he was instrumental in making Tacoma one of the top cities in the West for ore smelting and refining, and the town that grew up around the smelter was named Ruston in his honor. The smelter was also home to the world's largest smokestack, which was demolished in 1993.
In 1889 Thea Foss founded a rowboat service (image above courtesy Tacoma Public Library) in Tacoma that later grew to become Foss Maritime, the largest tug and towing operation on the West Coast. The 1933 movie Tugboat Annie was loosely based on her exploits, and more recently the Norwegian play The Other County -- also based on her life story -- made its Tacoma debut. Thea Foss's name also lives on as the Thea Foss Waterway on Tacoma's waterfront.
Sunya Pratt joined the Tacoma Buddhist Church in 1934 and quickly became involved in the children's education program. Two years later she was ordained as a minister, and over the next 50 years she became an important spiritual leader for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in the Pacific Northwest. In 1984 Pratt was honored with a testimonial dinner for her years of service.
Finally, we end with Maxine Mimms, who founded the Tacoma campus of The Evergreen State College. She also founded the Maxine Mimms Academies, a non-profit organization in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood serving youth expelled or suspended from public schools. In 2017 Mimms received Tacoma's prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award, and last year she was presented with a key to the City of Tacoma at her 90th-birthday party.
Irish Americans were among the many immigrants who traveled the Oregon Trail. Among those who settled in Washington were Michael Simmons and George W. Bush, who both settled near Tumwater in 1845. By 1856 one of every 12 land claims in Washington Territory was made by Irish-born settlers, many of whom had left their native land following the famine years of 1847-1850. Michael Cowley came to this country with no money at the age of 15 and became influential in the development of Spokane. James Purcell Comeford came to America in 1849, and later became the "father of Marysville." Jimmie Durkin and his family (including 13 siblings) arrived in America in 1868, and he grew up to become Spokane's legendary liquor tycoon
On March 19, 1881, while scouting routes for the Northern Pacific Railroad, a group of surveyors led by Virgil Bogue found Stampede Pass to be the perfect spot to connect the rail line to Tacoma. A tunnel wasn't completed until 1888, but it provided a new railroad gateway from Puget Sound to the East.
March 20 marks the first day of spring, and as the flowers begin to bloom we celebrate by noting that Puyallup held its first Daffodil Parade on March 17, 1934. But long before non-Native settlers arrived in the Pacific Northwest, Indians throughout the region cultivated Camas flowers and harvested their bulbs as a sweet, fructose-rich food.
On March 16, 1891, Lynden incorporated in Whatcom County, and nearby Ferndale incorporated on March 19, 1907. This week also marks the start of Selah, in Yakima County, which incorporated on March 17, 1919. Before the vote, the town's population mysteriously grew by half and just met the 300-resident threshold required by the law for incorporation.
On March 15, 1937, Governor Clarence Martin put his foot down on Washington's dance marathons, years after cities like Tacoma and Bellingham had banned them. The craze had risen to popularity in the 1920s, but the Great Depression intensified the fad as grueling endurance contests saw partners dancing for weeks and even months on end.
Rock and Roll
On March 16, 1958, Seattle Bandstand debuted on KING-TV and became an instant hit with Northwest teens. Modeled after Dick Clark's Philadelphia-based, nationally broadcast American Bandstand, the two-hour weekly program launched the careers of several local bands, and led to the creation of similar shows on NBC affiliates in Yakima, Spokane, and Portland.