By Matt McCauley
Dorr Forbes brought his family west from Iowa via transcontinental railroad in 1877 and settled in Juanita, then a quite lake bay surrounded by towering cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir. His homestead claim was on Rose Hill, at Forbes Lake, hence its name and that of its outflowing creek. He sold his claim in July, 1888 to Post-Intelligencer publisher S.J. “Leigh” Hunt, who purchased it as part of the site for the Moss Bay Iron & Steel Company mill, an enterprise headed by Kirkland namesake Peter Kirk. Seattle pioneer Henry Yesler built a sawmill associated with the Hunt/Kirk venture on what had been part of Forbes’ 155-acre claim.
Forbes bought a narrow strip of land on Juanita Bay from homesteader Martin Hubbard, a logger, where he built the family home and established a sawmill on Juanita Creek. Forbes created the sizable log pond mentioned in the 1892 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article by damming Juanita Creek. The pond was located about where Cafe Juanita is located today (9702 NE 120th Pl). Why a log pond? Sawyers kept their logs wet because if they dried out they had a tendency to split, which reduced their value. It is unclear when the pond was finally drained.
As a young woman crossing the plains with her family via oxen drawn covered wagon during the summer of 1853, Mary Russell was reportedly so beautiful that she attracted Indian braves who tried to buy her from her father. According to Seattle historian and Seattle Underground Tours founder, the late Bill Spidel, fearing that she might be kidnapped, Mary’s father insisted she spend most of the months’ long journey hidden away inside a wagon and she only ventured out after dark, and that was only under armed guard and with a bushel basket over her head! The male attention problem followed her to Puget Sound country. In 1854, at about 17-years-old, she and Charles, then about 24, were married by Judge Lander in a native war canoe at the Suqamish Reservation, near Port Madison, with Charles’ friend Sealth in attendance. Chief Sealth (anglicized as Chief Seattle) headed six Puget Sound tribes. Legend says this unconventional ceremony was wise old Sealth’s way of making clear to the young men under his authority that the Terrys were his friends and that they should stay away from Mrs Terry from then on out.
Charles died wealthy and respected in 1867, at a mere 37-years-old, due to “consumption”, as pulmonary tuberculosis was then called. Mary Terry gave birth to a baby, Mary Carroll Terry, on the day of his funeral. At 30-years-old she was a widow with five young kids, aged from newborn to 8-years-old, but thankfully Charles had left her well provided for financially. A few months after a terrible, five-month long abusive second marriage ended in divorce Mary bought young Henry Goldmyer’s claim on what was then called New Year’s Bay as a summer ranch in 1872. She married William Gilliam there in 1873. Gilliam was also a Seattle pioneer and a 1855-56 Indian War veteran, service which included fighting in the Battle of Seattle.
Mary died in 1875. She was only 37, the same age Charles was when he passed. Much of the Juanita land remained in the Terry family, which explains son Ed’s mention in the 1892 article. Her youngest daughter, whose married name was Mary Kittinger, the baby born the day her dad was buried, owned several portions of the old ranch well into the 20th century and may have owned the parcels right up to her death in 1933.
Many believe Mary Terry was inspired by the 1855 song Nita Juanita, but either way it was she who chose the name “Juanita”, by which the bay and area around it have been known ever since. Though she has been mostly forgotten and was only here for a few years, “Juanita” remains Mary Terry’s Kirkland legacy.
(Note: Special thanks to Loita Hawkinson of the Kirkland Heritage Society for her invaluable research of tax records and other sources establishing many of the facts provided in this post).
Mary Terry, c.1865. (Photo courtesy of MOHAI)