Henry Yesler arrives in Seattle on October 20, 1852.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2766
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On October 20, 1852, Henry Yesler (1810-1892) arrives in Duwamps (the future Seattle). He had come from Ohio via California and Portland, and was seeking a suitable site for a steam-powered mill. The land on the Elliott Bay waterfront had already been taken but Carson Boren (1824?-1912) and Dr. David Maynard (1808-1873) adjusted their claims (which had yet to be filed at the land office) to enable Yesler to locate his mill on the water.

Yesler first built a cookhouse. In early 1853, his milling machinery arrived by ship from California, and in short order got his mill working. Yesler's Mill was Seattle's main industry and for a time its only industry. By late summer 1853, Seattle had 20 buildings made from lumber cut there.

Yesler's main business was shipping lumber (piles at first) to California, and his mill began working two 12-hour shifts to supply the market. He was the first white settler to hire Indians as well as whites, and he treated his mill workers fairly.

In mid-July 1858, Yesler's wife Sarah Burgert Yesler (1822-1887) arrived in Seattle. Expecting to return from the Northwest soon, Sarah had left their 12-year-old son, Henry George Yesler (1845?-1859) with relatives in Ohio. The boy became ill and died in June 1859. The Yesler's received the sad news in a letter that arrived by steamer some time later.

Henry and Sarah Yesler were two of the leading citizens of early Seattle.


Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith, "Sarah Burgert Yesler," in Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994). 143-144, 146-148.

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