For more than 10,000 years, people have inhabited the peninsula that current Everett residents now call home, and it’s easy to see why. Its location near the mouth of the Snohomish River and next to Port Gardner Bay has always proved fruitful, providing abundant natural resources and transportation. As a result, the land attracted people from far and wide who looked to join those who share its riches, paving the way for Everett to become the county seat and taking the title as the largest city of Snohomish County, as well as the title of the seventh largest city in Washington. Now, over 112,000 people reside in beautiful Everett, which is rich with culture, opportunities, and thousands of years’ worth of history.
First Residents of Port Gardner Peninsula
Originally this lush peninsula was lived in by local Coast Salish Tribes who arrived in the region thousands of years ago and settled near modern-day Everett approximately in the past 2,000 years. The Snohomish Tribe called the land home, living near local waterways in the Possession Sound estuary.
Their central winter village, known as Hibulb (also known as Hebolb), was at the northwest point, or mouth, of the peninsula. It was a strategic placement, as it allowed the tribe to fortify the village with a stockade made of Western red cedar posts to guard against their local enemies. With their back to the water and the entrance of their village secure, tribe members were able to live out their lives in a peaceful existence of fishing, hunting, and gathering.
First Europeans to Everett
It was during George Vancouver’s 1792 Vancouver Expedition that the first Europeans arrived in the region. George and his men landed on the beach south of the village, now the modern Everett waterfront, on June 4 and immediately claimed the land for England and its king. Incidentally, the landing just happened to be on the birthday of King George III, making this now-claimed land somewhat of a birthday present for the royalty.
George also named the bay Port Gardner during these commissions for a member of his party. Once all were settled, he opted out of exploring the river. After this first contact with the Snohomish Tribe, all was quiet for the next 50 years in the region.
Then, the Hudson’s Bay Company traveled to the area, officially exploring the Puget Sound area and charting the region in 1824. Further exploration was performed during the United States Exploring Expedition under Charles Wilkes in 1841, ahead of a larger European presence in the area.
Puget Sound War
Tales of gold and riches eventually began to cause conflict in the region as the Snohomish Tribe experienced a rush of immigration brought on by a series of gold rushes throughout the Pacific Northwest. War broke out due to the 1847 Whitman Massacre, triggering the Cayuse War, then the Yakima War, before eventually leading to the Puget Sound War in 1855.
By this time, Governor Isaac Stevens had already tried to compel Tribes to sign treaties ceding land and establishing reservations, often using intimidation as a tactic. Originally the Yakima Tribe had signed one of the treaties negotiated during the Walla Walla Council of 1855. Still, when many miners continued to cross Yakima lands, the conflict quickly escalated into violence.
During these American Indian Wars that were erupting in King and Pierce Counties after the treaty signings, the Snohomish area remained peaceful. The Snohomish, as well as other Coastal Salish tribes, signed the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855 and in doing so, they relinquished their lands to the Washington territorial government. They were relocated to the newly established Tulalip Indian Reservation nearby, thus allowing for further, permanent American settlement of the land.
Settlement of the Peninsula
Carpenter Dennis Brigham was the first permanent American settler to arrive on the peninsula, having moved from his former home of Worcester, Massachusetts. He arrived in 1861, the same year Snohomish County was organized, and immediately claimed a 160-acre homestead on which he built a cabin.
Over the next several years, a handful of loggers would journey to the region and what would eventually become Everett. The area began to see a rise in settlements around 1863. It was then that Leander Bagley and H. A. Taylor opened the first store in the area on the point next to Helbo. E.D. Smith also set up a logging camp along the Snohomish River during the same year, and Jacob and David Livingston set up the town’s first steam sawmill and near present-day Harbor View Park on the bayside. All development seemed to foreshadow the promising future that lay ahead for future Everett.
An Industrial Center Called Everett Colby
Between 1870 and 1880, the white population in Snohomish County increased from 400 to 1,387. Though few within that range had moved toward the peninsula, it was apparent that the city was on the rise as those who had the money to invest took an interest in the land.
One such investor was Charles L Colby, a railroad executive who worked alongside lumberman Henry Hewitt Jr. After passing through during an Alaskan cruise, the men drew up plans for an industrial city on Port Gardner Bay, with dreams of building an industrial center at a site they hoped would be the first ocean port for the Great Northern Railway.
Funding was secured in the amount of $800,000 by Colby in September from oil magnate John D. Rockefeller and his associate to begin acquiring land while avoiding property speculators. Since Colby and Hewitt decided not to use a name that would identify a specific location, they came up with the city name of Everett Colby, naming it after Colby’s 15-year-old son by the same name.
Two months later, the Everett Land Company would acquire 434.15 acres and officially be incorporated as part of Pierce County on November 19, 1890. Soon after, Everett would begin to gain its first of many businesses in early 1891, with more settlers making their way to the area as industrialization began. Within the year, Everett would gain its first saloon, school, and church and be well on its way to becoming the largest city in Snohomish County.