University Place…a Place–with no University

Perhaps it seems too obvious, but when I hear of a city named, “University Place,” I jump to the conclusion that there must be a university in that place.  Ahhh, but in this case, I’d be dead wrong.

In 1888, a year before Washington became a state, Charles Henry Fowler, a Canadian-American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church and President of Northwestern University in Chicago, attended a Methodist conference in Tacoma, out of which came the commitment to build, “an institution of learning which shall by its ample facilities…command the respect and patronage of Methodist people within the bounds of the territory…and so by united and prayerful efforts advance to the establishment of a school of learning which shall be a praise in all the land.”

Apparently, there was some back and forth over whether the facility should be built in Port Townsend or Tacoma.  Tacoma won and the doors were opened in 1890 with a student body of eighty-eight.

It was a difficult and drawn out birth with location changes, funding problems, name changes….  It started out as The Puget Sound University, became The College of Puget Sound and eventually University of Puget Sound .  After several moves, it finally became a permanent fixture on North Warner St., in Tacoma.

But I said there is no University in University Place, so why does all this matter? Because, in the early 1890’s the University purchased 420 acres with plans to build a 60 acre campus, selling off the rest of the land to finance it. The area became known as University Place.  Unfortunately, the depression of 1893 quashed those plans and no University was ever built, however the University Place moniker stuck, so, when the City of nearly 5500 acres finally became incorporated in 1995, University Place it was.

Before white men “discovered” it, the area was home to the Steilacoom Indians who used the area south of what is now Chambers Creek but only ventured north of it on hunting and and camping trips.  That area remained mostly empty.

There were white men in the area; mostly employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but they were mostly transient and while they did raise some sheep in the  area they were not actually settling there.  There was, however, at least one settler as early as 1840.  Anthony Roberts Williamson, according to Marcia Willoughby Tucker; Day Island: A Glimpse of the Past, Williamson “staked a claim that included Day Island and acreage across the lagoon on the mainland.”

Day Island today from the mainland

Day Island today from the mainland

She noted that he built two wooden buildings on the mainland including a small house about 24’x16′.  He built a fence and plowed an acre and a half which put him in position to buy the property from the Federal Government in 1841 when the pre-emption act went into effect.  He stayed there for thirty more years, then sold the land in 1871 for $1000 to August and Fannie (Markbreit), Kautz.

General August Kautz, photographer, Mathew Brady.  Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

General August Kautz, photographer, Mathew Brady. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Kautz was in the 2nd Ohio volunteer cavalry during the civil war and reached the rank of brevet general and finally brigadier general before mustering out of the volunteers in January of 1866, then was made a lieutenant-colonel in the U. S. 34th infantry in July of that year.  He was promoted to full colonel in 1874, which means that at the time he bought Day Island he was one of those two ranks.

August was stationed in the Northwest from 1852 to 1858 as a lieutenant and during that time he married Tenas Puss, a Nisqually, (I believe), Indian woman, in an Indian ceremony.  Rather than call her by her Indian name, she was referred to as Kitty Etta.

Tenas Puss AKA Kitty Ella Kautz.  Photo courtesy of Linda Allen

Tenas Puss AKA Kitty Etta Kautz. Photo courtesy of Laurie Allen

August had two sons with Kitty, Nugen and Augustus, originally called Doctin.  After 1858 Lieutenant Kautz left the Northwest and went to Europe, leaving his Indian family behind.

Nugen Kautz, son of August and Kitty.  Photo courtesy of Linda Allen

Nugen Kautz, son of August and Kitty. Photo courtesy of Laurie Allen

My thanks to Laurie Allen for the information about, and photos of’ her Great Great Grandmother and her Great Grandfather.

He did, however, leave them in the care of of a friend, Edward Huggins, who’s name I have come across often during my research.  He also supported them financially until they were about 14 and had at least some level of ongoing relationship with them.

Kitty remarried after the divorce from August and became a successful landowner and horsewoman.  Both sons became instructors at their school before becoming successful farmers.

Unfortunately, colonel Kautz spent very little time at Day Island after purchasing it. His promotion in 1874 made him the commander of the dept. of Arizona, 8th infantry. He was then stationed at Angel Island, California and Niobrara Nevada before winding up in Seattle as a brigadier general where he retired in 1892 and died in 1895, leaving the disposition of Day Island up to Mrs. Fannie Kautz, his second wife, 22 years younger than he.

General Kautz is considered one of the hero’s of the Civil War.  In April of 1865, he led a division of African American troops in pursuit of General Robert E. Lee.

I noted earlier that the University bought 420 acres to build on, but who owned it first?  A salty former British sailor named William Bolton owned at least part of it. William arrived aboard the British ship, Albion which arrived at the spit, (Dungeness? Fox Island?), in 1849, (About the same time the U.S. Army was moving a detachment into a farm near Steilacoom), then moved into the Straits of Juan de Fuca along the Olympic Peninsula.

The Vincennes, similar in style and purpose to the Albion.

The Vincennes, similar in style and purpose to the Albion.

Had the Albion arrived three years earlier she would have been in territory jointly held by the Americans and the British but in 1846 the Oregon treaty was signed setting the US/British boundary at the 49th parallel–they got Canada, we got the Oregon territory.

Captain Richard Hinderwell had been sent by the crown to harvest timber at the suggestion of William Brotchie, former captain of the first steamship in the Northwest, the Beaver.  He had seen the forests earlier in the 1840’s and accompanied Hinderwell on his venture in the position of supercargo, (a representative of a ship’s owner on board a merchant ship, responsible for overseeing the cargo and its sale).  They were either unaware they were then in exclusively US territory or merely decided it didn’t matter.  They proceeded to load the Albion with high quality timber, estimated value $50,000, for use as spars by the British Royal Navy.

Since the good Captain and Mr. Brotchie had employed Native American workers to assist in the harvest, word spread among their communities and inevitably to Americans settled in Steilacoom and Newmarket, (later known as Olympia,) raising their ire and spurring complaints to the newly formed U. S. Revenue and Customs agency which was obliged to seize Albion in the name of the United States.  On April 22nd, 1850, Eban May Dorr, newly appointed customs inspector, with a contingent of six American soldiers, boarded and took possession of the Albion in the name of the United States.

I found two accounts showing differing reasons for the seizure; first, the fact that she was taking on timber from US property.  The other account indicated that Hinderwell was paying his Native American help in furs, which, as stated in Report of the commission of claims under the convention of February 8, 1853 between the United States and Great Britain, transmitted to the senate by the President of the United States August 11, 1856 was prohibited.  The index to Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives, Fifty-third Congress, Second Session, gave this account:  “Ship Albion, John Lidgett owner, for seizure of the vessel by United States officers of revenue for nonpayment of customs duties, for cutting timber in Oregon, and for trading with the natives in violation of acts of Congress. Presented January 20, 1854; heard April 3 and May 13 and submitted. October 2nd the commissioners disagreed as to the allowance of the claim. December 1 the umpire awarded $20,000.” It would appear that both reasons for the action were used.

Captain Hinderwell had apparently not exactly endeared himself to his crew.  In fact, there had been talk of a mutiny, possibly organized by Mr. Bolton.  The crew, it seems, felt it wise to take the opportunity to disperse as quickly as possible.  As Inspector Dorr, Captain Hinderwell and Supercargo Brotchie argued about the seizure,  Mr. Bolton apparently facilitated the crew’s departure by offering their services to Charles Kinney, skipper of an assisting American ship.  All but one of the crew seized the opportunity and Capt. Kinney significantly increased the number of his employees as Capt. Hinderwell’s crew diminished correspondingly.

After the seizure was a fait accompli, most of the crew went to the California gold rush but Mr. Bolton, apprentice carpenter Will Ellis and seaman Frederic Rabjohns remained in the area north of Chambers Creek, which became known as Bolton’s Plain or Bolton’s Prairie.  It wasn’t long before William obtained his American citizenship and a 640 acre land claim in that area.

University Place now with Bolton’s first claim in red below his second claim in darker orange. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

In about 1850 William was able to obtain his 640 acres, in part, by claiming that he had sent his wife, still in England, money to come to America but that she died before leaving the country. He said he had received this information from his sister.  Years later, he was, for reasons I have yet to discover, sued for part of that property by Issac and Seraphina Pincus and Adolph and Sarah Packscher.  In that suit Bolton’s brothers, Richard and Samuel, in England, provided affidavits testifying to the fact that his wife, the former Sarah Ann Nichols, was seen to be alive as late as 1885.

William Bolton lived on his plain from 1850 until he died, according to the City of Tacoma Register of Death, on 12/2/1903, and had made his living for most of fifty years as a shipbuilder.  Unfortunately, the exact location of his shipbuilding business seems to be a mystery.  What little information I have seems to indicate that he was buried in the Tacoma Cemetery.

These two maps seem to show the original area which was known as University Place and the smaller area that was to be kept as University land.  Since it was purchased around 1893 Mr. Bolton had been gone for some time.

William married Mary Ann Taylor in 1862.   Mary, also from England, had arrived in the area in 1859 aboard the ship, Norman Morrison.  She lived until 1914 so undoubtedly the handling of the land sales to the University fell to her.

Map showing what I believe to be the  original "University Place," that purchased by Puget Sound University in the early 1890's

Map showing what I believe to be the original “University Place,” that purchased by Puget Sound University in the early 1890’s

Map which I believe shows the land maintained by Puget Sound University for construction of their campus

Map which I believe shows the land maintained by Puget Sound University for construction of their campus

All of this and we have not really touched on what went on before the University’s purchase gave this town its name.  Forty years needs to be covered before we even get to that point. Perhaps the next step is to cover the Impact of Thomas Chambers on the city.  Although he arrived in Steilacoom in 1847, the creek named for him forms the southern boundary of University Place and the businesses he owned contributed to its development. Even at that, his death in 1876 still precluded the use of the title, “University Place.”

I leave you with a gallery of photos taken in and around University Place–enjoy; and remember, you can always view my photographic work at Flickr.