Promoter Morton Matthew McCarver arrives at Eureka, later Tacoma, on April 1, 1868.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 11/29/2002
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5019
On April 1, 1868, promoter Morton Matthew McCarver (1807-1875) arrives at Eureka, on Commencement Bay. Recognizing the location's potential as a terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad, he will purchase 163 ¾ acres from Job Carr, who had settled there three years earlier. McCarver (and others) will name the townsite Tacoma.

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.


Sources: Murray Morgan and Rosa Morgan, South On The Sound: An Illustrated History of Tacoma and Pierce County (Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, 1984), 39-41; Murray Morgan, Puget's Sound: A Narrative of Early Tacoma and the Southern Sound (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979), 144-151.

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