In telling the story of Kirkland’s beginnings there was a tough, brave young man–some would say still a boy–now long-forgotten by most. His name was Henry and he was the first, literally the first, to take a land claim in the rugged wilderness of 1870 that would become Kirkland. He also had the distinction of being one of the three young men who petitioned King County for Kirkland’s first road, which was also the Eastside’s first King County road.But there is no plaque dedicated to him. No park, street, creek, hill, school or trail is named in his honor. He has fallen victim to an unintended historical slight: Invisibility.
At least until now.
During the late 1860s to early 1870s three to 12 man logging crews worked Lake Washington’s shoreline, harvesting the big trees by hand. These pioneer loggers had no oxen teams and steam donkey yarding engines were not yet in use; the trusty, iconic 3-foot gauge geared locomotives were still decades away. Facing incredible danger, with no safety gear, the early loggers carved notches–sometimes as high as 10-20 feet off the ground–in the trees’ trunks with their double bit felling axes to position themselves above these trees’ wide bases. Into these notches, the lumbermen inserted stout planks–called springboards—on which to stand and then began the physically demanding ax work: carving out the ‘backcut,’ a wide, deep notch in the trunk. Once a sufficient backcut had been slowly chipped out, the team switched to a long crosscut saw, called a ‘misery whip.’ A man gripping a handle at either end, they sawed, back and forth, until the mighty giant toppled into the backcut and violently crashed into the forest floor. Sometimes, a fallen tree would hang up in surrounding trees and create one of the most dangerous situations in the woods. Such hung up trees were called ‘widow-makers’ and clearing them was often deadly. Logging then was a trade of indescribable danger, in fact it still is.
When in October and November of 1870 US Deputy Surveyor Walter B. Hall led his team through the two townships that comprise today’s Kirkland, the maps he drew as part of his surveys revealed something the 1850s General Land Office surveys had not: Settlers.
During October, Hall and crew surveyed Township 26N, Range 5E, which comprises today’s north and south Juanita, part of Finn Hill, Totem Lake and Kingsgate neighborhoods and farther north, into today’s Woodinville and east about four miles beyond the Sammamish Slough.
Hall noted the existence of only one dwelling in the entire 36 square mile township. It was a cabin on the north side of Juanita Bay—where today’s Juanita Village development now stands—and it belonged to logger Martin W. Hubbard, who’d turned 21 a few months earlier. Hubbard was from New Hampshire and had filed a claim for 157.5 acres on the north side of Juanita Bay.
Just across the lake at Sand Point, 25 year-old, Virginia-born William Goldmyer took a claim late in 1868. Goldmyer, the son of German immigrants, had traveled from Ohio to San Francisco, arriving in 1861. In 1863, his youthful wanderlust propelled him to hike from California to the fledgling Washington Territory. He later wrote that he made the journey on foot so he could, “get a good view of the country.”
William Goldmyer built a cabin and worked as a logger along the lakeshore. By 1870, his 19 year-old brother Henry was living with him. Perhaps young Henry looked longingly across the lake to Juanita Bay, where land was just becoming available to those who would settle on and improve it, or for purchase at $2.50 per acre.
Around the same time Hubbard established his claim, Henry Goldmyer claimed 160.35 acres at the northeast side of Juanita Bay, which prior to the lake’s lowering nine feet 1916 when the Lake Washington Ship Canal’s Montlake Cut was excavated, Juanita Bay was much larger and the shoreline was well past today’s 98th Avenue NE. It seems logical that the young loggers would choose to make their claims on Juanita Bay, which appears a superior, well-protected site on which to store and raft logs—a huge log pond, of sorts.
Hall’s survey crew moved south into Township 25N, 5E in November, 1870. That township comprises the remainder today’s Kirkland neighborhoods and Houghton, east to Lake Sammamish and runs south, just past Meydenbauer Bay. On the lake at today’s Houghton were then two cabins, one belonging to Nancy McGregor, a widow, and another belonging to her grown son, James Popham—who Hall misidentified as “J. Tahham.” A second Popham brother, William Thomas “Tom” Popham, had a claim at the very southern portion of today’s Yarrow Bay but had not yet built a dwelling there.
Life on the lake was tough and lonely in 1870 and carving homesteads out of the thick, wet forest under frequently dreary gray skies extracted a considerable physical and mental toll on the first settlers. Many noted symptoms of depression. For this and other reasons, large numbers of early homesteaders sold or simply abandoned their claims prior to being awarded title by the federal government. Nancy McGregor owned her claim but her health was and issue and by about 1874 she and her sons had sold their claims and had moved on to California. Not much was recorded about them, but an early 20th century newspaper article, informed by interviews with surviving pioneers who had known them, revealed the Popham brothers as highly skilled hunters and during their short time here they shot six cougars and many black bears—bear steaks being very popular settlers’ fare.
Kirkland Heritage Society’s president, Loita Hawkinson, and I have both researched extensively the name Juanita’s origin. Hawkinson has unearthed a newspaper clip of that name being used in 1872, the oldest reference located thus far. Many modern published explanations of the settlement’s name state that the community was originally called Hubbard, after Martin Hubbard. Some of these writers mention a “Hubbard family,” but records show Hubbard never married and had no natural or adopted children. In the 1880s, the US Postal Service awarded Hubbard a mail contract and at that time the small settlement that had sprouted on the bay was called Hubbard by the US Postal Service, but it had been called Juanita well prior to the postal designation. Legend holds that the place was named after a then-popular song, Nita Juanita, but documenting this legend has been quite challenging.
During the summer of 1872, Hubbard and Goldmyer performed another Kirkland first: They petitioned for the Eastside’s first King County road. The two young men, along with John Steeves, who had homesteaded land due east of Juanita, on the Sammamish Slough, spent three days surveying the route of their proposed road:“Commencing at Henry Goldmyer’s Landing on the East side of Lake Washington thence running on the section lines between 29 and 32 to the quarter post between sections 28 and 33…through the Western portion of John Steeve’s and William Wells’ claims.”
The men filed their petition on August, 5, 1872 and the next day it was accepted and declared a road, designated King County Road Number 33. By 1877 it was called R. Langdon Road, after Rowland Langdon, who arrived that year and homesteaded today’s McAuliffe Park. Today we know Hubbard and Goldmyer’s road as NE 116th Street.
On August 3, two days before the men filed their road petition, Samuel and Caroline French, recent arrivals from Maine with their grown son, Harry, paid Alfred Smith $350 to relinquish his land claim near Nancy McGregor’s place, at today’s Houghton. Smith had not yet acquired title to the land and Sam French essentially paid Smith to abandon the 77.8 acres to him so French could complete the residency and improvement requirements—called ‘proving up’ one’s claim—to acquire the first title, called a ‘patent,’ from the government. The French family was long credited as being Kirkland’s first permanent settlers, but since South Juanita was annexed into the City of Kirkland, that title must go to Hubbard whose residency not only pre-dated the Frenches by two years, but who, with Goldmyer and Steeves, had also managed to establish a county road just as the French family was arriving.
In 1876, Goldmyer sold his Juanita claim—he’d owned it outright since October 10, 1872 via a cash sale making Henry the first Kirkland pioneer awarded a patent—and had moved to 10 acres just south of Seattle’s Beacon Hill. He continued to spend his time logging on the Eastside, however. Often loggers of this time stayed in temporary camps located wherever they were cutting trees.
The June 1, 1877 Daily Pacific Tribune newspaper contains a brief, final mention of Henry Goldmyer. On May 30th, he and his logging crew were floating a raft of logs down the Sammamish Slough (Then called the Squak Slough). Standing upright on a wet, bobbing, loose collection of logs was risky; Henry slipped and fell. His head struck one of the logs and everything went black, forever.
His crew watched in horror as he slipped beneath the surface and under the raft. They searched all day for Henry, but to no avail. The following day a group of Indians found his body washed up on the shore. His remains were taken into Seattle and on June 2 his funeral was held in Yesler Hall and he was interred at Lakeview Cemetery, then called the Masonic Cemetery, though his grave is unmarked because after the debts were settled his estate did not have enough money leftover to purchase one, though he’d done reasonably well for himself financially by 27 year-old pioneer standards. By that time his brother William was married with young kids and it seems likely that it just wasn’t in the family’s budget for him to provide one for his little brother Henry—but that’s just speculation.
With some tragic irony, a decade later, on May 28, 1887, Martin Hubbard, then 37, was, like his old pal Henry, standing on a floating log raft–though Martin was on Juanita Bay. As Goldmyer had done, Hubbard slipped off a wet log and struck his head, lost consciousness, slid beneath the lake’s surface and never awoke. His body was located the following day by O.C. Shorey’s undertaking firm of Seattle, submerged iunder15 feet of water. Shorey’s invoice was included in Hubbard’s probate records and reveals that Shorey tacked onto the bill an additional $2 charge for removing Hubbard’s remains from the lake. His burial clothes were $10 and his coffin cost $40.
When he died Hubbard still owned all the Juanita Bay land, less the nine acres he’d sold Dorr Forbes for a shingle mill. Hubbard and his business partners also owned a team of oxen used in their logging business. Based on an affidavit in Hubbard’s probate file containing Forbes’ testimony, Hubbard’s logging outfit was a ramshackle, hand-to-mouth operation. Hubbard had no family out west, his estate’s executrix was his sister who lived back east. He was also buried at Lakeview, though his grave is marked with a simple, flat stone that his estate paid a little over $200 for—that was all that was left over after his debts were paid.
After Henry’s 1877 death, new settlers started arriving. These were not bachelor lumberjacks, but married couples with children, many of whom put down Juanita roots lasting for generations. They’d never met Henry Goldmyer, but knew Martin Hubbard for a decade before his accident. It is perhaps for this reason that irrespective of his hard work and colorful, albeit short, life that local legend and written history gave Henry short shrift. Martin W. Hubbard was remembered, but Henry H. Goldmyer was forgotten, becoming Kirkland’s invisible pioneer.
At least until now.
(Note: Special thanks to Tom Hitzroth, a Kirkland native and noted authority on Eastside pioneers, for sharing his collection of period documents and extensive research on Goldmyer and Hubbard).