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Kirkland pioneer family spotlight: Forbes and Terry

By Matt McCauley

Several years ago, I came across a short article in the April 13, 1892 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about illegal trout fishing in a log pond near Lake Washington. While most of us reading it today might be mildly amused by this slice-of-life circa late 19th-century, there is more to the tale. Here is the story behind the two pioneer Kirkland families who co-owned this popular fishing spot.

Dorr Forbes brought his family west from Iowa via transcontinental railroad in 1877 and settled in Juanita, then a quite lake bay surrounded by towering cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir. His homestead claim was on Rose Hill, at Forbes Lake, hence its name and that of its out-flowing creek. He sold his claim in July, 1888 to Post-Intelligencer publisher S.J. “Leigh” Hunt, who purchased it as part of the site for the Moss Bay Iron & Steel Company mill, an enterprise headed by Kirkland namesake Peter Kirk. Seattle pioneer Henry Yesler built a sawmill associated with the Hunt/Kirk venture on what had been part of Forbes’ 155-acre claim.

Forbes bought a narrow strip of land on Juanita Bay from homesteader Martin Hubbard, a logger, where he built the family home and established a sawmill on Juanita Creek. Forbes created the sizable log pond, mentioned in the 1892 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, by damming Juanita Creek. The pond was located about where Cafe Juanita is located today. Why a log pond? Sawyers kept their logs wet because if they dried out they had a tendency to split, which reduced their value. It is unclear when the pond was finally drained.

Leslie (“Les”) Forbes, the youngest child of Dorr and Eliza, founded Juanita Beach with his wife Alicia in 1921. One of their daughters still resides in the Kirkland area.

In this map from 1897, the Forbes-Terry log pond was located about where Cafe Juanita stands today. (courtesy U. S. Geological Survey)
Log pond co-owner, homesteader, and mill owner Dorr Forbes with his wife, Eliza, and their sons (in descending age): Ray, Allen, Leon and Loyd Leslie “Les”, circa 1892. (courtesy Forbes family)

The other pond owner mentioned, Edward Lander Terry, who later served 19 years as Seattle City Treasurer, was the son of Seattle pioneers Charles and Mary Terry. Charles, a driven, greatly admired man whom his contemporaries described as having inexhaustible energy, was a member of the Denny group who first landed on Alki Point in 1851. For a time, he owned Alki Point, which he traded to the colorful Dr. David “Doc” Maynard for his land south of today’s Yesler Way. Among many other notable accomplishments, Charles co-owned Seattle’s first water system and King County’s first store. He was a Puget Sound steamboat pioneer and, along with pioneers Arthur Denny and Judge Edward Lander, donated part of the 10 acres surrounding Denny’s Knoll for the University of Washington’s original location—names still honored through the UW’s Terry, Lander and Denny halls. At one time Charles owned 40 percent of the land within the Seattle city limits and 90 percent of its business district. The Terry home on the northwest corner of Third Avenue and James Street was considered one of the finest in Washington Territory in the 1850s and ’60s.

The Terry family home on 3rd Avenue and James Street was considered Seattle’s finest home in the 1850-60’s. Mary Terry’s Juanita ranch served as a second home. (courtesy Matt McCauley)

As a young woman crossing the plains with her family via oxen drawn covered wagon during the summer of 1853, Mary Russell was reportedly so beautiful that she attracted Indian braves who tried to buy her from her father. According to Seattle historian and Seattle Underground Tours founder, the late Bill Speidel, fearing that she might be kidnapped, Mary’s father insisted she spend most of the months’ long journey hidden away inside a wagon and she only ventured out after dark, and that was only under armed guard and with a bushel basket over her head! The male attention problem followed her to Puget Sound country. In 1854, at about 17 years old, she and Charles, then about 24, were married by Judge Lander in a native war canoe at the Suquamish Reservation, near Port Madison, with Charles’ friend Sealth in attendance. Chief Sealth (anglicized as Chief Seattle) headed six Puget Sound tribes. Legend says this unconventional ceremony was wise old Sealth’s way of making clear to the young men under his authority that the Terrys were his friends and that they should stay away from Mrs Terry from then on out.

Mary Terry, circa 1865 (courtesy MOHAI)

Charles died wealthy and respected in 1867, at a mere 37 years old, due to “consumption”, as pulmonary tuberculosis was then called. Mary Terry gave birth to a baby, Mary Carroll Terry, on the day of his funeral. At 30 years old, she was a widow with five young kids, aged from newborn to 8-years-old, but thankfully, Charles had left her well-provided for financially. A few months after a terrible, five-month long abusive second marriage ended in divorce, Mary bought young Henry Goldmyer’s claim on what was then called New Year’s Bay as a summer ranch in 1872. She married William Gilliam, her third husband, there in 1873, at what was probably Juanita’s first wedding of non-indigenous people. Gilliam was also a Seattle pioneer and a 1855-56 Indian War veteran, service which included fighting in the Battle of Seattle.

Mary died in 1875. She was only 37, the same age Charles was when he passed. Much of the Juanita land remained in the Terry family, which explains son Ed’s mention in the 1892 article. Her youngest daughter, whose married name was Mary Kittinger, the baby born the day her dad was buried, owned several portions of the old ranch well into the 20th century and may have owned the parcels right up to her death in 1933.

Kittinger was a prominent Seattle socialite, land owner, and developer. The Terry-Kittinger Building in Seattle’s Pioneer Square area was built in 1889 by the Kittingers and Mary’s brother, Edward Terry.   

There is debate about the source of inspiration that Mary Terry had for choosing the name “Juanita” for her ranch. It may very well have been the 1855 song Nita Juanita, Regardless, this is the name by which the bay and area around it have been known ever since. Though she has been mostly forgotten and was only here for a few years, Juanita is the part of Mary Terry’s legacy that has special significance to Kirkland residents.

Note: Special thanks to Loita Hawkinson of the Kirkland Heritage Society for her invaluable research of tax records and other sources establishing many of the facts provided in this post.

Note: This article was originally published in the Kirkland Views blog.

Mary Terry’s Juanita ranch is highlighted in blue in this snippet of the 1870 General Land Office survey map. (courtesy U. S. Dept. of Interior)
Mary Kittinger was the youngest Terry daughter. This map snippet from 1916 shows Juanita acreage remained in the Terry family well into the 20th century. (courtesy KCRS Map Vault)