McCarver was a businessman, public official, farmer, and promoter who speculated in real estate in Burlington, Iowa; Sacramento; and near Portland. Despite his boomer activities, he never quite became successful. From Portland, McCarver traveled to Olympia to explore opportunities and there learned about available land on Commencement Bay. When he saw the sheltered bay with its dramatic view of the mountain known in the Salish language as Tacoma, later renamed Mount Rainier, he realized that it was a natural location for a city.
McCarver negotiated to buy most of Job Carr's claim (Carr kept five acres around his cabin) for $600 cash and 100 acres in Oregon. McCarver invited other investors to file claims and buy property there.
McCarver platted a town he called Commencement City. After discussion with Philip Ritz, he hit on Tacoma, the Salish word for the mountain that Europeans renamed Rainier. When McCarver learned that Job Carr's son Anthony had also filed a townsite plat called Tacoma, McCarver called his Tacoma City. These sites and the Northern Pacific's New Tacoma all became Tacoma.