Sidney (later renamed Port Orchard) incorporates on September 15, 1890.

  • By Catherine Hinchliff
  • Posted 9/09/2010
  • Essay 9551
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On September 15, 1890, Sidney becomes the first city in Kitsap County to incorporate. It is classified as a town of the fourth class. Immediately following the incorporation, the new Sidney mayor and council collect a poll tax and announce that Sidney saloons must now pay an annual licensing fee. The money is spent on city improvements such as hill grading and bridges. In the first years after incorporation, Sidney will help bring the Puget Sound Naval Station to Sinclair Inlet, will become the county seat, and will rename itself Port Orchard. These events will ensure the continued growth of the new town. 

Becoming a Town  

Despite a healthy lumber industry that first developed in the 1850s, the Sinclair Inlet, the site of the Sidney did not have a permanent resident until 1885, when Henry Cline moved to Mitchell Point on the Sinclair Inlet with his sister and brother-in-law. In 1886, Frederick Stevens, a relative of the Cline family, platted Sidney after his father, Sidney Merrill Stevens, purchased 88.5 acres for the creation of a town. That year, Cline opened Sidney’s first store. Other families moved to to the town and started businesses of their own, one of the earliest being the Corbett Drugstore. In 1888, Cline secured a post office for the town and served as postmaster.

In addition to a lumber and shingle mill, Port Orchard had two pottery companies: one before incorporation and another shortly after. The pottery works made sewer pipes, terra cotta crockery ware, and provided Seattle with brick for its first paved street. Unfortunately, the pottery building burned down in 1895 along with Sidney’s entire business district.  

In 1889, Thomas Cline, built the town’s first wharf, which further increased the growth of the town’s population. The wharf met the needs of the growing “Mosquito Fleet,” private steamers that served Puget Sound. The boats were so numerous that they were said to resemble a swarm of mosquitoes. In the 1890s, these ferries were scheduled to depart Sidney for Seattle up to five times a day.

Building Streets and Courting the Navy 

In the fall of 1890, after rapid growth during the previous year, the town's population became large enough to petition for incorporation. On September 15, 1890, Sidney was incorporated as a fourth-class town. The first mayor was Ira C. Rockwell. E. M. Taylor served as city clerk. Alfred Larson, D. R. Mackintosh, J. H. Cline, A. W. Robinson, and Thomas R. Kendall served on Sidney’s first council.

The mayor and council sought to address the issue of Sidney’s lack of good streets. Bay Street, the town’s main thoroughfare was “inundated by saltwater” each high tide. Also, two creeks, Pottery Creek and Black Jack Creek, divided the town into three parts that the council hoped to connect by bridges. In order to fund these first public works projects, Sidney officials instituted an annual license fee for the town’s saloons, as well as a poll tax on each adult male resident.   

Since the town’s founding, the promise of a Puget Sound Naval Station located one mile across Sinclair Inlet had created a lot of excitement about Sidney. As a result, Sidney residents played an active role in convincing two separate commissions assigned to recommend a site that the Sinclair Inlet was the perfect place for a Naval Station and dry dock. In March 1891, Congress approved the location and appropriated funds. Sidney residents wisely anticipated the opportunities for employment, trade, and population in the naval installation.

Becoming Port Orchard

Three years after its incorporation, Sidney became the new Kitsap County seat. The former county seat, Port Madison, once a thriving mill town, had been virtually deserted when its lumber mills closed. In 1892, Kitsap County voted to move the seat to Sidney, as the town’s residents had donated land and built a two-story courthouse complete with courtroom and fireproof vault.   

In the same year as the campaign to switch the county seat to Sidney, the town petitioned the Washington State Legislature of 1892-1893 to change its name to Port Orchard, after Port Orchard Bay. However, the town of Charleston (now part of Bremerton) had submitted an earlier petition to the legislature to make its name Port Orchard, so Sidney’s request to change its name was denied. However, the Post Office Department granted a post office name change from Sidney Post Office to Port Orchard Post Office. This may have been the result of a mistake over where to send the U.S. Navy’s mail in Puget Sound. The Post Office Department received a request to rout any Navy mail through “Port Orchard,” which someone understood to mean Sidney rather than the much closer Charleston.

By the turn of the century, it became clear that Sidney, not Charleston, had become Port Orchard. To end the confusion, Will Thompson, editor of the Sidney Independent, went to the Washington State Legislature of 1902-1903 and convinced them to rename the town Port Orchard City. From then on, the relatively young town of Sidney was known only as Port Orchard and continued to develop and grow into the twentieth century. 

Sources: “Sidney: Its Business and Industries -- Railroad Possibilities -- Extensive Street Improvements, Etc,” Sidney Independent, August 22, 1891, p. 1; “After the Fire,” Ibid., , November 19, 1892, p. 1; “Sidney’s Water System,” Ibid., April 14, 1894, p. 2; “Ten Years Ago: The Fire As Described in Independent of Sept. 15, 1894,” Port Orchard Independent, September 10, 1904, p. 3; “Port Orchard: The First 100 Years,” insert, Port Orchard Independent, September 14, 1990; Kitsap County Business Review, 1901 ed. by the Port Orchard Independent (Seattle: Shorey Book Store, 1970); "Klallam," "Suquamish," and "Washington State Tribes" in Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia ed. by Mary B. Davis, (New York: Garland Publisher, 1994), 291-292, 620, 685-686; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History,“Kitsap County -- Thumbnail History” (by David Wilma), “Puget Sound’s Mosquito Fleet” (by Larry E. Johnson), and “Puget Sound Naval Shipyard” (by Daryl C. McClary) (accessed August 31, 2010); Kitsap: A Centennial History ed. by Fredi Perry (Bremerton: Kitsap County Centennial History Project, 1989); Kitsap County History: A Story of Kitsap County and Its Pioneers (Silverdale: Kitsap County Historical Society, 1977), 1-65; The Year of the Child, 1979 ed. By Fredi Perry (Silverdale: Kitsap County Historical Society, 1979). 

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