Seattle's Early Donation Land Claims

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 9/26/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7045
This essay summarizes the original Donation Land Claims submitted in the area of future Seattle.

Summary of Early Donation Land Claims

In papers they filed for the Donation Land Claims with the U.S. General Land Office, the settlers gave the following dates that settlement began on their claims. These are likely the dates that the settlers staked the boundaries of their claims, built their cabins, and moved in to them.

On September 27, 1851, Luther Collins, his wife Diana, and children Lucinda and Stephen, Jacob Maple (or Mapel) and his adult son Samuel A. Maple (Mapel), and Henry Van Asselt arrive at the Duwamish River land claims.

  • Luther Collins stated that he settled on his claim on October 5, 1851. This was probably the date that the Collins cabin was completed enough for the party to move into. The Collins Donation Land Claim was incorporated into the town of Georgetown in 1890 and annexed to Seattle in 1910.
  • Jacob Maple probably settled on his claim during October 1851. The papers of the Jacob Maple claim are not extant. It is likely that Jacob Maple built his cabin after Luther Collins’ cabin was completed, the evidence being that initially Jacob and Samual Maple lived in Collins' cabin. In 1854, Jacob Maple abandoned his claim and returned to the East. Eli Maple, Jacob's son, took over the claim. Jacob/Eli Maple's Donation Land Claim fell within the city boundaries when Georgetown incorporated in 1890. In 1910 Seattle annexed Georgetown.
  • Henry Van Asselt stated that he settled on his claim on October 15, 1851. Seattle annexed Henry Van Asselt’s Donation Land Claim in 1907.
  • Samuel Maple stated that he settled on his claim on November 15, 1851. Samuel Maple’s Donation Land Claim became part of Georgetown when it was incorporated in 1890. In 1910 the city of Seattle annexed Georgetown.
On September 28, 1851, John Low and Leander (Lee) Terry, accompanied by David Denny, selected Alki Point for their Donation Land Claims. John Low returned to Portland to guide the Denny-Boren-Bell party to Alki Point. David Denny and Lee Terry stayed behind to build a cabin. The Alki Point land claims were continually occupied from September 28, 1851. Low and the Boren, Denny, and Bell families arrived at Alki Point on November 13, 1851. Boren, Denny, and Bell did not intend to settle at Alki Point; rather they used Alki as their base while looking in central Puget Sound for donation land claims.
  • Leander (Lee) Terry probably settled on his claim in November 1851. The papers of Lee Terry’s claim are not extant. Lee and Charles Terry probably completed their cabin by early December 1851. In mid-April 1852, Lee abandoned his claim and returned to New York state. Charles took over Lee's claim on May 1, 1852. The town of West Seattle annexed Alki Point in May 1907 and two months later the City of Seattle annexed the town of West Seattle.
  • John Low probably settled on his claim on November 13, 1851. The papers of John Low’s Donation Land claim at Alki are not extant. Lee Terry and David Denny began building the Low cabin on September 28, 1851. It was completed enough to be slept in on November 13, 1851, the day the rest of the Denny party arrived at Alki Point. Low abandoned his claim in April 1853 and moved to Thurston County. Seattle annexed the town of West Seattle in July 1907.

During the first two months of 1852, while temporarily quartered at Alki Point, Boren, Denny and Bell looked around central Puget Sound for Donation Land Claims. In early February 1852, Arthur Denny, William N. Bell, and Carson Boren followed the shoreline of Elliott Bay in a canoe taking soundings. On February 15, 1852, the three men staked the north and south boundaries of their three claims along the east side of Elliott Bay. On March 31, 1852, David Maynard arrived from Olympia looking for a site to salt and barrel Duwamish River salmon. Maynard decided to join Bell, Boren, and Denny and established his fishery on the future site of Pioneer Square.

  • William Bell stated that he settled on his claim on April 3, 1852. The William and Sarah Bell cabin was located near the future intersection of Elliott Avenue and Battery Street in Belltown. William Bell's Donation Land Claim was incorporated into the Town of Seattle in 1865 and into the City of Seattle in 1869.
  • David Maynard stated that he settled on his claim on April 3, 1852. His cabin was located at the future NW corner of 1st Avenue S and Main Street. David Maynard’s Donation Land Claim was incorporated into the Town of Seattle in 1865 and into the City of Seattle in 1869.
  • Carson Boren stated that he settled on his claim on May 13, 1852. The Carson and Mary Boren cabin was located at the future NW corner of 2nd Avenue and Cherry Street. Carson D. Boren’s Donation Land Claim was incorporated into the Town of Seattle in 1865 and into the City of Seattle in 1869.
  • Arthur Denny stated that he settled on his claim on June 12, 1852. Arthur and Mary (Boren) Denny's first cabin in Seattle was located near the future intersection of Elliott Avenue and Bell Street. Arthur Denny’s Donation Land Claim was incorporated into the Town of Seattle in 1865 and into the City of Seattle in 1869.

Sources: National Archives, Washington Donation Land Claims, National Archives microfilm M615. (Washington D.C.: National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, 1970).

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