Friday, June 13, 2014

Mr. & Mrs. Forbes Come to Juanita Bay

Eliza and Dorr Forbes came west from Iowa in the 1870s and settled at Juanita Bay.
The story of Juanita’s “first family” was first preserved back in the late 1930s. With a pen and the back of an envelope, the late Dorris (Forbes) Beecher sat on a porch with her grandmother, Eliza (Waggener) Forbes (1849-1942), and began recording the historic Forbes saga. Though Eliza was getting old (she had been widowed for nearly two decades) her mind was clear and sharp.

Mrs. Beecher’s first name was spelled Dorris rather than the conventional Doris, to honor her late grandfather, Dorr. Eliza and her husband Dorr Forbes (1841-1919) arrived on Seattle’s primitive waterfront in 1877 with two young sons and all their belongings. In 1861, at age 20, and in the first year of the Civil War, Dorr enlisted and served as a mounted scout and sharpshooter with E Company of the 33rd Illinois Infantry Regiment of Volunteers—a battle-hardened unit which saw considerable action, including the Siege of Vicksburg. He was wounded in action and discharged in 1863.
After the war, Dorr moved to Iowa where he became a cattle buyer and farmer. There, he met a young teacher, Eliza Ann Waggener. The two married in 1874 and were soon planning their move west. In 1876 the couple and their young son, Ray, boarded an emigrant train in Knoxville, Iowa, and rode the train for two weeks until it finally reached Sacramento, California.

The family then boarded a ship in San Francisco and traveled north to Hillsboro, Oregon where they took up residence in a log cabin. Shortly thereafter a second son, Leon, was born. Eliza and the boys remained at the cabin, but Dorr made a trip north to scout the opportunities in Puget Sound country. He returned with a favorable report and the family took a boat to Kalama, Washington, then a train to Tacoma, where they boarded a Seattle-bound steamer. They stayed overnight in Seattle, then a rough-and-tumble logging town and seaport, at the old New England Hotel.  

This is what Eliza and Dorr Forbes saw from the old New England Hotel on their first day in Seattle in 1877. This 1875 photo taken looks up First Avenue from South Main Street. Seattle was then a rough-and-tumble western lumber town and seaport. The hill was called Denny’s Knoll and has been softened somewhat through regrading since that time. The highest building, with the cupola, was the old Territorial University, the earliest incarnation of the University of Washington, which did not move to its present Portage Bay location until 1895.

The next day, the family hauled their possessions by horse drawn wagon over the hill to Lake Washington to a spot derisively called Fleaburg—today’s Leschi—a flea-infested Native American settlement with only one permanent cabin. There they loaded everything onto a steamer so tiny Eliza told Dorris years later that it “looked more like a ship’s boat.”
The steamer chugged north, and Eliza said her apprehension about the move melted when she first laid eyes on Juanita Bay. She said there wasn’t a soul in sight, just a beautiful bay surrounded by giant trees. She said she knew at that moment that Juanita was where she wanted to live.

The family’s first home site was near the northwest corner of the intersection of what became N.E. 116th Street and 100th Avenue N.E. They had one neighbor, Martin Hubbard. Although at that time the community was called Hubbard, the name Juanita was coming into use. Their first house had already been constructed in Seattle, and they had it hauled to the foot of Madison Street and then barged it across the lake and dragged it up to its final position, which must have been quite a task. During their first year in Juanita they had a third son, Allen. The small community was soon joined (in 1877) by Charles and Mary Dunlap (1850-1908) and their four children. Charles Dunlap (1846-86) was also a Union Army veteran who had fought with I Company of the 4th Iowa Cavalry. Dunlap worked as a school teacher. The Forbes and Dunlap families had known each other in Iowa. 

In the early 1880s, Dorr attempted to raise cranberries on additional property they homesteaded on Rose Hill at Forbes Lake. He lost his war with the beavers and sold that property in 1889 to the Kirkland Land & Improvement Company. It later became the site of the Great Western Iron & Steel Works.

In addition to his shingle mill, Dorr Forbes was a logger. He had a contract to cut cordwood, which was used to fuel the early Lake Washington steamboats.  
 Eliza gave birth to their fourth son, Leslie, or “Les” as he was known, in 1886 at their first home. Soon thereafter the couple built a second home off today’s 97th Avenue N.E., and Dorr built a shingle mill nearby on Juanita Creek. Hubbard worked there with him, and the two also logged trees from Finn Hill and the surrounding area.

Dorr and Eliza built their house, seen as 1880s. It was their second house at Juanita, off 97th Avenue N.E. When it burned in 1905, the couple built a new home on the same property.
View looking south at Lake Washington in 1913, down today’s 97th Avenue N.E., then called Bothell Road. The Forbes home was on the right, at their mailbox.
Among their friends were other noted Eastside pioneers, Ole (1837-1914) and Marit Josten (1840-1913), who homesteaded 160 acres at the site of today’s Juanita High School; Bothell founders, David (1820-1905) and Mary Anne Bothell (1823-1907); and Woodinville founders Ira (1833-1906) and Susan Woodin (1848-1919). Like Dorr Forbes, both men were Union Army veterans. Mrs. Beecher said her grandmother and fellow pioneer woman Susan Woodin were good friends. Susan Woodin often walked from her homestead in what became Woodinville, to stay overnight at the Forbes home and then the next day cross the lake to Seattle by rowboat or canoe, where she landed at the foot of Madison Street, and then walked the three miles to downtown Seattle to sell butter. Then she walked back to the lake, crossed by small boat, stayed overnight at the Forbes place, and from there walked back home. Susan Woodin, a tough example of a pioneer woman, was also Woodinville’s postmistress.

Eliza said during her early years that she was frightened one day when a group of Indians showed up at her door. They were migratory group, however, with peaceful intentions. All they wanted was to warm their feet at the stove inside. 

On January 23, 1887 Eliza was the first woman elected justice of the peace on the west coast. In Washington Territory women could vote before it was possible in most of the rest of country. When Washington became a state in 1889, women lost that right and Eliza had to step down from office. She remained a political activist and had a large photograph of Teddy Roosevelt prominently displayed in her living room. She frequently attended Republican Party meetings in Seattle. Mrs. Beecher recalled that once when Eliza was in her late 80s she made the trip across the lake to one party function and fell and broke her arm. Undaunted, she returned home and her daughter-in-law, Alicia Forbes, got Dr. George Davis to splint the broken arm. But Eliza stubbornly refused to wear the splint. Despite her uncooperation, her arm healed perfectly.

In her later years, a Forbes family member typically provided transportation for Eliza, but if a family member was not available, she didn’t let that stop her. She’d call the jitney (taxi) in Kirkland to come pick her up and take her to the ferry so she could attend Republican Party meetings. When she was in her 90s, her sons asked the jitney operators to refuse to fetch her when she called. This did not stop her. One time she disappeared, causing her family to launch a search. They heard from a neighbor that he’d seen her out on the road hitching a ride to the ferry. Eliza Forbes did what Eliza Forbes wanted to do.

Another time, again in her later years, Eliza disappeared for the day, but returned very excited. As a young woman in the 1800s she’d had a dream one night that she was flying in a machine that carried passengers through the sky. This dream was years prior to the first powered flight. Eliza disappearance turned out to be a visit to Seattle where she flew in an airplane to Bremerton and back. She claimed the experience was her dream coming true. At the time of her adventure, few Kirkland-area residents and certainly no other member of the Forbes family had flow in an airplane. This feisty pioneer grandma was the first. 

King County owned the 1905 Forbes house from 1956 until 2002, when the City of Kirkland acquired Juanita Beach Park. The family extensively remodeled it in 1937, so its appearance has changed since 1905, but it still stands on its original site at 11829 97th Ave. N.E. Mrs. Beecher said her grandparents planted the fruit trees around the home, which still produce fruit.

The 1905 Forbes house seen in June, 1959. To the right of the house the apple trees Dorr and Eliza planted in the 1880s can be seen, and in the above photo, too. Eliza liked to sit on the porch and shoot robins from those very trees with her .22 rifle. Sadly, the apple orchard was destroyed by King County Parks Dept.
 Mrs. Beecher said that even into her pioneer grandmother’s senior years she caught fish in Juanita Creek, then a thriving salmon stream as well as home to trout and other edible species. She also picked stinging nettles, dandelions, and wild berries, all of which were a regular part of their diets. Mrs. Beecher said Eliza also enjoyed sitting on porch and shooting robins from her fruit trees with a .22 rifle. Pioneers considered robin’s breast a culinary delicacy. She lived the life of a rugged, individualistic pioneer, right up to her death in 1942.

Eliza and Dorr Forbes are interred at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery, on the Washelli side (east of Aurora Ave) .