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Redmond's Pioneer Days

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

On November 28, 1853, Isaac Stevens (1818-1862), the first governor of Washington Territory, issues a proclamation that names Olympia as the capital of the new Territory. Olympia, founded in 1850, is located in Thurston County on the shores of Budd Inlet, the southernmost extension of Puget Sound. At the time, it is among the largest settlements in the Territory. Although subsequently surpassed in population and commercial prominence by other cities, Olympia retains its position as capital of the Territory and later of Washington state. [Read the full essay on HistoryLink ]

Homestead Act of 1862

The Homestead Act of 1862, allowed any adult, whether a citizen or not, to purchase 160 acres of land $10. If he remained on the land and improved it, after 5 years, he could receive a title to the land. With the limited land available east of the Mississippi River, the wide open spaces of the West called millions westward. For $10 a man could acquire land for his family-the 19th century American Dream. The Homestead Act was largely responsible for settling the West.

McRedmond and Perrigo Arrive

The first settlers in the Redmond area were Luke McRedmond (1820?-1898) and Warren Perrigo (1836-?). Arriving in the area in 1871, McRedmond took up a claim along the Sammamish River, while Perrigo took up land just east of him.

Luke McRedmond
Luke McRedmond

In the spring of 1871, Luke McRedmond and his wife Kate Morse McRedmond brought their family to the 80 acres they had acquired on what is now Redmond Town Center. They had previously lived in Seattle, before taking what they owned east where they could buy enough land to raise their family. Luke was a 51 year-old Irish immigrant forced out by the Potato Famine in 1850, he had first settled in Tennessee before going to the California gold fields, then to Puget Sound. He married Kate Morse, a young widow in 1859 with a small son. They had four more children of their own when they moved to Redmond.

Warren Perrigo
Warren Perrigo

Warren Wentworth Perrigo, a decorated Civil War vet, and his young wife Laura McDuff, came to Seattle in the summer of 1866 from Maine, where the lure of land drew the young pioneer west. After working odd jobs, in 1871, he and his wife decided to settle to the east of Seattle along the shores of Lake Sammamish, purchasing 80 acres of land along what is now the Value Village and Bear Creek Shopping Centers. They built an inn, the Melrose House to service those headed toward Snoqualmie Pass or other settlers looking to settle the fertile Sammamish valley. After 16 years in Redmond, Laura Perrigo died, and five years later Warren sold the hotel, and moved to Seattle where he married again, raising their five children in Snohomish County. Warren's brother William also settled in Redmond, bringing his bride Matilda to their new cabin at what is now the corner of Avondale and Union Hill Road, where they raised their 11 children – including two sets of twins Mable and Arlington, and William and Maude.

From Salmonburg to Melrose to Redmond

Realizing that many travelers and hunters would soon be passing through the region, the Perrigos built a house that could also be used as an inn. They named it Melrose House after Perrigo's hometown in Massachusetts, and many early pioneers stayed there while scouting out claims. Perrigo also blazed many early trails and roads, creating a network among the other fledgling communities in the region, with his inn at the center. It is no surprise that he also became the foremost trader in the region.

Meanwhile, Luke McRedmond had started creating a village. Originally named Salmonburg after the abundance of dog salmon in the rivers and streams, it was later changed to Melrose due to the popularity of Melrose House. When McRedmond became postmaster in 1882, he officially changed the name to Redmond. This caused bitterness between the Perrigo and McRedmond families for years to come.

A Small Town Prospers

The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Rail Road came to Redmond in 1889 when Seattle leaders became angry at Northern Pacific for ending their northern rail line in Tacoma, rather than Seattle. The line came north from Seattle to Bothell then split, one line heading south around Lake Washington to Kirkland and Bellevue, and the other line heading to Woodinville, Redmond, Issaquah, Preston and North Bend. There were additional smaller feeder lines that serviced the lumber mills and farmers. The rail lines brought people to Redmond and communities along Lake Sammamish, and shipped goods from Redmond out to the world.

a steam engine from the Campbell Lumber Co.
A steam engine from the Campbell Lumber Co.

Redmond began to prosper. The first school was built in 1897. Lumber mills and shingle mills dotted the countryside. Warren Perrigo became a leader in the fight for good roads. By 1900, the population of Redmond was 271, and the town was home to both laborers and merchants.

Clise Eyes Redmond

Around this time, prominent Seattle banker and businessman, James Clise visited the area and liked what he saw. In 1904, he bought 78 acres of land south of town and built an elegant summer home for his family. The Clises liked visiting it so much, they moved out of their mansion in Seattle to their new home, which they called Willowmoor.

They expanded the lodge into a 28-room Tudor mansion and Clise turned the surrounding land into a profitable farm. Later, his wife, Anna, would become instrumental in the foundation of Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle. Many benefits were held at Willowmoor for the well-to-do to get away from it all and to donate money to a worthy cause. Years later, the mansion became home of the Marymoor Museum of Eastside History, but in 2003 the King County Department of Parks and Recreation took it over for use as an event facility.

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