Denny Party scouts arrive at mouth of Duwamish River in future King County on September 25, 1851.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 3/08/2003
  • Essay 5391
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On September 25, 1851, David Denny (1832-1903), John Low (1820-1888), and Lee Terry (1818-1862) arrive in a vessel commanded by Capt. Robert C. Fay at the mouth of the Duwamish River in the future King County. They camp at Duwamish Head near an Indian village, and there meet Chief Seattle (d. 1866). On the evening of September 27, they greet the Luther Collins and his party as these settlers pass by on a scow on their way to their Duwamish River claims. On September 28, 1851, Low and Terry select Donation Land Claims on Alki Point.

David was the younger brother of Arthur Denny (1822-1899), who with his father John Denny had led a party of settlers from Indiana to the Willamette Valley. Hearing reports about Puget Sound, Arthur dispatched his brother and John Low to scout the area. They trekked north along the Cowlitz River and trail to the village of Olympia, where they teamed up with Lee Terry and Capt. Fry for a sail north.

For the next three days the party explored Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River. Low and Terry had in mind to start a town, and on September 28, 1851, selected Donation Land Claims on Alki Point.

David Denny and Lee Terry began to build a cabin on the site while John Low returned to the Portland, Oregon, area to collect the balance of a party of pioneers led by David's older brother Arthur Denny.

The Denny Party arrived on November 13, 1851, aboard the schooner Exact and found the Low cabin still unfinished. Most of the group, with the exception of Lee and brother Charles Terry -- who dubbed their community "New York" -- relocated to present-day Seattle the following spring.


Clarence Bagley, History of Seattle (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1916) and History of King County, Washington (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929); Miriam Baughman et al., Duwamish Diary (Seattle: Franklin High School, [1849], 1996); Murray Morgan, Skid Road, An Informal Portrait of Seattle (New York: Viking Press, 1951 et seq.); Lucile McDonald, "Seattle's Durable Maple Clan," The Seattle Times, November 24, 1957, Magazine section, p. 8.
Note: This file was corrected on December 5, 2005. Lee Terry's and Charles Terry's birth and death dates were corrected based on the Terry family genealogical Website, "TERRYs of Oneida and Madison Counties New York," compiled by Debbie Jeffers, accessed on October 27, 2004 ( This corrects Lee Terry's 1889 death date as reported in Arthur Denny, Pioneer Days on Puget Sound, 1908 Edition. Lee Terry was a married farmer from Madison, New York with two sons (a daughter was born in 1854).

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