The faces behind the names of 5 Seattle streets

Every street in Seattle has its own story. All are fascinating, most weird, some — tragic. Here are the the faces and brief histories behind five notable Seattle streets.

Minor Avenue

seattle street faces Dr. Thomas Minor. Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

Dr. Thomas Minor was born in 1844, in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where his parents were missionaries. Thomas and his brother William served as surgeons in the Union Army during the Civil War, but their lives took very different turns. William Minor suffered a mental breakdown, killed a man in London in 1872, and was confined for most of the rest of his life to the notorious Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. As author Simon Winchester details in his book The Professor and the Madman, William spent his time in the asylum furiously contributing to the Oxford English Dictionary. Thomas went on to become a significant civic leader as Mayor of Port Townsend, then Mayor of Seattle. Just as his political career was taking off to the state level, Minor set off on a duck hunting canoe trip across the dangerous Saratoga Passage with friends. They were not seen alive again. His companion’s bodies were found near Whidbey Island. Minor’s body was never recovered.

Yesler Way

seattle-streets-2 Henry Yesler. Photo: Seattle Public Library

This street was created to serve the log rolling needs of Henry Yesler’s sawmill on Elliott Bay. Yesler arrived at Elliott Bay in 1852 and established the first steam-powered sawmill on Puget Sound within a few months. At the time, his mill was Seattle’s only industry. He employed nearly every white male settler in the city and was inclusive of Native Americans. Yesler married his wife Sarah in Ohio when he was 29 and she was 17. They had two children, both who died young. According to HistoryLink, before Sarah joined him in Seattle, Yesler had been living with a teen-aged Native American girl, Susan, and fathered her child, Julia. When Sarah moved to town, Susan and Julia were sent to live with Yesler’s friend. Sarah knew about the affair and didn’t mind. She was rumored to have her own infidelities with other women, but the Yesler’s held unconventional beliefs, and were open to free-love for all.

Maynard Alley

seattle-streets-5 Dr. David Swinson Maynard. Photo: Seattle Historical Photograph Collection

The alley honors Seattle pioneer David S. “Doc” Maynard who platted the future International District in 1853 when it was still mostly under water. Before Maynard arrived, the land on Puget Sound was called Duwamps. Maynard stepped in and rallied to name the land after Chief Seattle, a Native American tribal chief and peacekeeper. Maynard recognized that besides the tools, medicines, and other positive things that the white men had brought to Puget Sound, they also forced disease, intolerant religions, and the inhospitable idea of private property onto the Native American people. According to HistoryLink, Dr. Maynard fell in love with a woman named Catherine Broshears, whose husband’s life he’d failed to save in Old Nebraska. He accompanied the widow and her party to Oregon, and somewhere along the line they fell in love. Unfortunately, Maynard was already married to a woman named Lydia back in Ohio. Once embedded into Seattle civic life, Maynard lobbied the Oregon Territorial Legislature to pass an act that would give him a divorce from Lydia so he could be with Catherine. It is unclear why Maynard only got an alley while his fellow pioneers had major thoroughfares and neighborhoods named after them. His funeral was the largest Seattle had ever known and he was widely considered to be one of the most influential characters in Seattle history.

South Angeline Street

seattle-streets-3 Kikisoblu aka “Princess Angeline”. Photo: Seattle Public Library

Chief Seattle’s daughter, Kikisoblu was well-known to early Seattle pioneers. According to HistoryLink, Maynard’s wife Catherine told Kikisoblu that her beauty didn’t fit her name, and christened her, “Princess Angeline.” Kikisoblu worked as a laundress for residents until she grew old and moved to a small home on the Seattle waterfront at Pike and Western Avenue. When Native Americans were banned from the city in 1865, Kikisoblu refused to succumb to pressure from white settlers to relocate and remained in her home till her death. Her image appeared on postcards and spoons and other Seattle souvenirs, and yet, the Duwamish people were not able to get federal recognition till the end of the Clinton Administration. This recognition was overturned under George W. Bush. They are still seeking federal recognition. Learn more at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center.

Denny Way

seattle-streets-4 Louisa Denny, David Denny, Madge Denny and Emily Inez Denny, 1858. Photo: Seattle Public Library

The Denny Party were the first white settlers of Seattle. As descendants of Danish Vikings, their home in the little Cherry Grove farming community of Illinois seemed boring in comparison to the settlers who were out roughing it on the Oregon trail. The Denny men decided to make the treacherous journey by covered wagon and boat to the Pacific Northwest. The women were less enthused, as they would be tending to twelve young children on the arduous journey. The people who comprised the Denny party were all related, although some bore the surname “Boren.” Arthur Denny had married Mary Ann Boren in 1843, and, five years later his widowed father, John married Mary Ann’s widowed mother, Sarah Boren. Arthur’s brother David married Mary Ann’s sister Louisa and they all became one big, weird, happy family. They made it to Alki Point in 1851 and relocated to a spot along Elliott Bay in 1852. Please read more about the Denny’s impact and antics on HistoryLink.

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