Cities of Pierce County Washington

Pierce County, Washington came into existence after Oregon became a state in 1853. Prior to that time, this area was considered to be part of Lewis County, Oregon Territory. That detail makes some historical research tricky.

Another complicating factor in Pierce County history is the ownership claim of the HBC Map Reformatted with SatelliteHudson Bay Company (HBC). When Washington Territory began in 1853, the boundary with Canada (1846) and the claim of the HBC needed to play out. The decision was in the courts until 1867 and a major portion of Pierce County was technically unavailable for settlement by Americans until the agreement was paid in 1869. Old Tacoma and the Ruston/Point Defiance area were the only portions of Pierce County west of the Puyallup Valley that were open to settlers. (Note the red line boundary of the HBC claim)This included land south to the Muck and Graham Hills. Donation land claims (1850) desired by some former HBC employees and other settlers were not surveyed until 1871. This was even after the Homestead Act (1862).

Dotted all over early Anglo-Pierce County were farming stations that raised cattle, sheep, horses, pigs and grain crops (barley, oats, wheat) for the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC). Spanueh was one of those stations. Spanueh, a local-Indian word meaning “place to dig roots” was the name that preceded the name Spanaway. It was also phonetically spelled “Spinally” in case you want to try that pronunciation. The stories of a Chief Yawanaps or being a “span” away (10 miles) from Steilacoom are not the actual origins of the name. Research into HBC letters and documents in recent years (2004 to present) has begun to reveal more detail of this local history, formerly skewed by local settlers distaste for the British and Indian of the area.

In Parkland, just west of the Shibig farm where today you see “Fruit-on-the-Loop,” was another HBC farm called Sastuc. Sastuc was named for the band of Indian people associated with the Steilacoom area. The Steilacoom Tribe, although not Federally recognized, was part of the Medicine Creek Treaty. The Tribe has a museum of their history in Steilacoom.

Another notable piece of information on the HBC map is the image of wetlands throughout the county.

Since the inception of Pierce County, Washington, certain industries influenced the start up of various cities. Steilacoom and Tacoma were based on the water and therefore became trade-based cities. Tacoma also became a significant milling location for the timber trade in direct competition with Kapowsin as the railroad spurs gave that location a boost because it was in the midst of the great timber resources. The City of Tacoma formed in its present location due to its selection as the railroad terminus on the west coast.

Wilkeson, Carbonado and Buckley benefitted from the discovery of coal in their vicinities. Puyallup, Sumner and Orting grew due to the good soil for farming. They also suffered setbacks from flooding of the Puyallup, White and Carbon Rivers, later controlled with dikes in the Puyallup area.

Railroad spurs assisted several outer county location to grow. You can see the 1907 railroad spur building caused several 1909 incorporations. Word War 2 caused a few more and later, the state adoption of the Growth Management Act brought three more.

Here are the Pierce County city incorporation dates:

Steilacoom 1854, Tacoma 1875, Orting 1889, Buckley 1889, Puyallup 1890, Sumner 1900,
Ruston 1906, Milton 1907, Roy 1908, Fircrest 1908, Eatonville 1909, South Prairie 1909, Pacific 1909, Wilkeson 1909, Gig Harbor 1946, Carbonado 1948, Bonney Lake 1949, Dupont 1951, Fife 1957, University Place 1996, Edgewood 1996, Lakewood 1996

Places not incorporated:
Parkland, Spanaway, Midland, Summit, Summit View, South Hill, Elbe, Ashford, Alderton, McMillan, Frederickson, Waller, McKenna, Lacamas, Ohop, Ohop Bob, Elk Plain/Loveland

Places that have mostly vanished:
Fairfax, Glennis, Tanwax, Hillhurst, Kapowsin, Whittier, Greenbrook, Leber, Fisk, Crossing (aka Kings Crossing), Clay City, Electron




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