A brief history of Snoqualmie Falls
Several thousand years ago, when the glaciers receded, they left a fertile plain near Snoqualmie Falls. When Native Americans arrived, they found a bounty of edible bulbs, roots and berries on the prairie. Deer and mountain goats were plentiful.
Though there were no salmon above the falls, the upper Snoqualmie River became a seasonal rendezvous and meeting place as trade among native peoples increased. The Snoqualmie Tribe (a subgroup of the Coast Salish) established a camp at the base of Mount Si. They also established villages at Fall City and Tolt (Carnation).
Snoqualmie is the English pronunciation of “sah-KOH-koh” or “Sdob-dwahibbluh,” a Salish word meaning moon. As a spiritual place, it gave birth to many legends. One tells of “S’Beow” (the beaver), who climbed into the sky to bring trees and fire down to earth. The Native Americans who roamed the valley were known as people of the moon.
White settlers began to arrive in the valley by the early 1850s. Long before, the falls became a tourist destination; pioneer women would edge as close to the falls as they could while friends held on to their dresses to keep them from falling. Jeremiah Borst was the first permanent white settler in the Snoqualmie Valley and is known to some as “the father of the Snoqualmie Valley.”
Josiah Merrit (“Uncle Si”) built a cabin at the base of a local peak in 1862 (the peak became known as Uncle Si’s mountain — now Mount Si). He raised vegetables and hogs and kept an orchard. According to local historians, he was a rugged man who sometimes hauled bacon to the large settlements.
To do so necessitated hauling the load on a sled to the river, canoeing downstream, strapping the load to his back and climbing down the 268-foot falls, hiking several miles, and then canoeing the rest of the way to Everett or Seattle.
By 1877, there were several logging operations in the region. In early days, logs were floated over the falls and down the river to Everett and Puget Sound. By 1889, entrepreneurs funded and built a railroad (the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern) into the valley, opening up timber resources to the world market.
In 1889, the town of Snoqualmie was platted by Charles Baker, a civil engineer. He also constructed an underground power plant at the falls in the 1890s (those original generators are still functioning today). The power plant resulted in electricity and jobs for locals, and soon a small company town was established at the falls. In 1911, a second powerhouse was constructed.
Such large waterfalls often attract daredevils. When that first passenger train arrived in 1889, it was a big event — more than 1,000 people turned up for food, celebration and entertainment. A Mr. Blondin successfully walked a tightrope over the falls.
In 1890, Charlie Anderson was less fortunate. He parachuted into the canyon from a hot-air balloon, but when he opened the chute a strong air current pushed him toward the falls. As the crowd watched in horror, another gust pulled him in another direction and dropped him on a large boulder; he died that night.
Courtesy Seattle PI – Thursday, February 6, 2003