Murray C. Morgan
Doc Maynard and the Indians, 1852-1873
Viking Press, 1960
Northwest Room Home
Copyright, 1960, Murray Morgan
All Rights Reserved
This information may not be reprinted in any manner without
the written permission of the author.
Doc Maynard and the
1850 Dr. David Swenson Maynard was living in Lorain County, Ohio;
he was forty-two years old and in debt. On the morning of April 9
he shook hands with his wife Lydia, whom in twenty years of
marriage he had come to dislike, kissed his two children, mounted
his gray mule, and rode off toward California, where he hoped to
recoup his fortunes.
Maynard intended to join another Ohioan, Colonel John B. Weller,
in the gold fields, but kindness and cholera sidetracked him.
Instead of panning for nuggets he became one of the founding
fathers of Seattle and in some ways the most influential figure of
the early days on Elliot Bay.
was a man of parts, a warm human being whose worst faults grew out
of his greatest virtue, his desire to be helpful; and few people
ever got into more trouble trying to help others. He went broke
being helpful in Ohio, where during the 1830s he ran a medical
school. There is no record that the Vermontborn doctor ever dunned
a patient, and he not only extended unlimited credit but signed
his patients' promissory notes.
school went under during the panic of 1837, and so did the
projects of a number of friends he had sponsored; he found himself
saddled with more than thirty thousand dollars of other people's
debts. For twelve years he labored to pay off his creditors and
feed his family; but when his children were old enough to look
after themselves, Maynard found irresistible the appeal of
California, where a man might unearth a fortune.
fact that the new eldorado lay half a continent away from his wife
made it no less attractive. The first entry in his travel diary
expressed the intention of many another man who eventually settled
in Seattle: "Left here for California."
was still intent on California when he reached St. Joseph on the
Missouri. He was traveling light. He had a mule, a buffalo robe, a
few books, a box of surgical instruments and some medicines; he
had almost no cash and he relied on his profession to pay his way.
At St. Joseph he attached himself to a caravan of wagons bound for
the West. They crossed the river on May 16. Four days later the
doctor scribbled in his journal: "Passed some new graves."
was part of the pioneer experience. Day after day, as the wagons
rolled west across prairies green with spring, Maynard counted the
graves beside the trail:
May 21 Passed the grave of
A. Powers, of Peoria County, Illinois, died on the 20th inst.
about sixty-five miles west of St. Joseph. Traveled about
eighteen miles. Was called to visit three cases of cholera. One
died, a man, leaving a wife and child, from Illinois, poor. He
lived seven hours after being taken.
May 22. Rainy. Fleming and
Curtis taken with the cholera. Wake all night. Called upon just
before we stopped to see a man with cholera, who died soon
May 23 Curtis and Fleming
better but not able to start in the morning.
May 24 Camped at Blue River.
One grave, child eleven years old. Forded the stream. Raised our
loading. Got my medicine wet.
doctor himself was touched with the disease. He said nothing,
not wanting to worry his companions, but he confided his trouble
to the journal:
May 29. Started at six
o'clock, going about eighteen miles. Water scarce and poor.
Curtis gave the milk away. Went without dinner. A drove of
buffaloes were seen by a company ahead. Left the team and went
on ahead. Saw one buffalo and one antelope. Took sick with the
cholera. No one meddled or took any notice of it but George
May 30. Feel better. Start
on foot. Continue to get better. Travel up the Little Blue
twenty miles. Wood, water, and feed tolerable. That week they
passed Fort Kearney, a low, wood-and-mud building on a sandy
plain that rose into sandhills. Maynard wrote with wonder of the
tame buffalo grazing near the fort. A spring cloudburst caught
them on the Platte and for two days the party shivered, unable
to get a fire going; there was more cholera.
June 4. A man died with the
cholera in sight of us. He was a Mason. I was called to see him
but too late.
June 5. Have a bad headache;
take a blue pill.
June 6. Unship our load and
cross a creek. One death, a Missourian, from cholera. Go
eighteen miles. Pass four graves in one place. Two more of the
same train are ready to die. Got a pint and a half of brandy.
Earn $2.20.The next day cholera changed Maynard's life. But at
the time Maynard was most impressed by the fact that he earned
nearly nine dollars, doctoring.
June 7 Started late. Find
plenty of doctoring to do. Stop at noon to attend some persons
sick with cholera. One was dead before I got there and two died
before the next morning. They paid me $8.75. Deceased were
Israel Broshears and William Broshears and Mrs. Morton, the last
being mother to the bereaved widow of Israel Broshears. We are
eighty-five or ninety miles west of Fort Kearney.
June 8. Left the camp of
distress on the open prairie at halfpast four in the morning.
The widow was ill both in body and mind. I gave them slight
encouragement by promising to return and assist them along. I
overtook our company at noon twenty miles away. Went back and
met the others in trouble enough. I traveled with them until
night. Again overtook our company three miles ahead. Made
arrangements to be ready to shift my duds to the widow's wagon
when they come up in the morning.
Broshears' train was headed for Tumwater at the extreme southern
tip of Puget Sound, where the widow Broshears' brother, Michael T.
Simmons, had settled five years earlier, in 1845 - the first
American to homestead on the Sound. Maynard agreed to stay with
her until she reached there. The doctor, who had never so much as
switched an ox, now found himself in charge of a team with five
yoke of oxen and two yoke of cows.
was also physician to a group that was deathly ill; even with his
ministrations, the party had seven deaths from cholera in two
weeks. And he was the newcomer leader of a group split by
dissension; several members wanted to turn back. For two weeks
after shifting his duds to the widow's wagon the doctor was too
busy even to write in his journal the only lapse in his record but
by the Fourth of July things were in good enough order for him to
note: "We celebrated a little."
kept moving. For two months the Broshears' train edged westward,
four miles, ten miles, occasionally twenty miles a day. Maynard
experienced the routine hardships of the Trail and knew too the
occasional joys of good water, of fresh fish, or a day without
petty disaster. He underwent the ordeal that gave the settlers of
the Pacific Northwest a hard core of mutual understanding.
every family that came to Seattle during the early days had passed
through the trials by dust and dysentery that Maynard, writing by
firelight or in the early dawn, penciled in his little journal:
Dragged the team through
sand eight miles to Devil's Gate.... Oxen sick; vomiting like
dogs.... Discovered a party of Indians coming upon us. We heard
that they had just robbed one train. Prepared for an attack.
When within half a mile they sent two of their number to see how
strong we were. After viewing us carefully left us for good. ...
Kept guard for fear of Mormons....
Traveled in sand all day,
and camped without water or feed.... I was well worn out, as
well as the team, from watching at night. A miserable company
Traveled all day and night.
Dust from one to twelve inches deep on the ground and above the
wagon a perfect cloud. Crossed a plain twelve miles, and then
went over a tremendous mountain....
Team falling behind. Found
them too weak to travel.... Left camp at six-thirty, after
throwing Lion and doctoring his foot, which Mrs. Broshears,
George and myself did alone....
Indians are plenty.... Was
called to see a sick papoose.... Got to Fort Hall. Found the
mosquitoes so bad that it was impossible to keep the oxen or
ourselves on that spot. Oh, God! the mosquitoes. Sick all day
and under the influence of calomel pills.... Started late on
Lion's account. Drove two and a half miles, and he gave up the
ghost. We then harnessed Nigger on the lead....
Lost our water keg. Sixteen
miles to water. Road very stony.... Traveled six miles to Salmon
Falls ... bought salmon off the Indians. This place is
delightful. The stream is alive with fish of the first quality,
and wild geese are about as tame as the natives.... Watched team
all night. Am nearly sick but no one knows it but myself....
Crossed creek and climbed
the worst of all hills. Went up three times to get our load
up.... Geared the wagon shorter. Threw overboard some of our
load.... Cut off the wagon bed and again overhauled. ... Left
this morning a distressed family who were without team or money
and nearly sick from trouble. Left Brandy and Polly to die on
Here we began climbing the
Blue Mountains, and if they don't beat the devil... Came over
the mountains and through dense forest of pine, twenty miles.
Traded for a mare and colt and Indian dress. Paid for the things
a brass kettle, two blankets, a shirt, etc....
Bought a fine spotted horse,
which cost me $55.... Came to the Columbia River twenty miles
through sand all the way. This night I had my horse stolen. I
was taken about sunset with dysentery, which prostrated me very
Drove to the Dalles. Sold
the cattle to a Mr. Wilson for $110... and prepared to start for
Portland down the river. Sat up nearly all night and watched the
Loaded up our boat and left.
Came down about fifteen miles and landed for the night. We
buried a child which we found upon the bank of the river,
drowned.... Hired a team and got our goods down below the
rapids. Engaged Chenoweth to start out with us immediately but
he, being a scoundrel, did not do as he agreed.
Hired an Indian to carry us
down in his canoe to Fort Vancouver. We had a hard time, in
consequence of the Indian being so damned lazy. By rowing all
the way myself we got to the fort at one in the morning as wet
as the devil....
Left the fort with two
Indians who took us down the Columbia eight miles to the mouth
of the Cowlitz, which is a very tired ox team to Bend.... Came
to Plomondon's landing about noon. Obtained horses and started
out ten miles to Mr. J. R. Jackson's ... Made our way twenty
miles through dense forest and uneven plain twenty-five miles to
M. T. Simmon's, our place of destination, where we were received
with that degree of brotherly kindness which seemed to rest our
weary limbs, and promise an asylum for us in our worn out
of course, was in love with the widow Broshears, and he quickly
fell in love with the Puget Sound country. The weather was wet but
mild; after the dust and heat of the plains, after the cold of the
mountains, after the alkaline water of the plains, Maynard did not
mind the rain. He liked the gray, overcast days when the fir and
hemlocks on the near-by hills combed the bottom of the heavy
clouds that pulsed in from the Pacific.
salt water fascinated him:
the Sound stretched
northward for more than a hundred Miles from the Simmons'
homestead, a quiet inland sea, its shoreline charted but its
surrounding hills almost unexplored. It was good too, after the
weeks on the trail to relax in a house with windproof walls, to
listen to rain on the cedar shakes, to sleep in a bed, to eat
white bread and fresh vegetables, to talk to Catherine
Broshears, who was beautiful or even to her sister-in-law
Elizabeth Simmons, who was not.
brotherly kindness shown by Simmons on the party's arrival did not
extend to Maynard after Simmons detected that his sister's
interest in the doctor exceeded that of an employer for her
ox-team driver. It did not matter to Simmons that Maynard was a
doctor and a fellow Democrat he was also a married man. Simmons
suggested that Maynard move on to California before the other
fellows dug all the gold.
stalled. He had heard rumors that coal had been discovered on the
lower Sound and he wanted to investigate. In mid November he hired
some Indians to paddle him north on a prospecting trip. The Sound
stretches south between the Olympic Mountains and the Cascades. To
the west the Olympics sheer up from the water "big and abrupt
as a cow in a bathtub," as one early traveler put it; they
were almost black with fir and hemlock, and though explorers had
located several good anchorages along the western shore, the
absence of any extensive farm lands discouraged settlement.
the Hudson's Bay people who had covered this territory before Doc
Maynard skirted the eastern shore as he paddled north. The
Cascades stood well back from the water; a plain nearly thirty
miles wide stretched between the salt water and the rugged
foothills. The plain was forested and useless for farming, but
mountain streams flowing from the glaciers on Mount Rainier and
Mount Baker had cut several valleys, which offered broad acres of
rich, volcanic soil the Nisqually, already cultivated by the
Hudson's Bay Company; the Puyallup, twenty miles to the north, and
just beyond the Puyallup, the Duwamish.
was headed still farther north, to the Stilquamish, a swift stream
that enters the Sound at a point due east of the Strait of Juan de
Fuca, the channel to the Pacific Ocean. His journal of the trip is
matter-of-fact, but it is not hard to imagine the feelings of a
man from the plains as he rode in the black-painted cedar dugout
over the gentle waters of the Sound, the islands dark with Douglas
fir, the wind sharp with salt and sweet with the scent of red
great mountain rose in the east, its white cone streaked with
blue-black ridges, and to the west stood the Olympics, white with
the early snow. Seals bobbed up to stare roundeyed at the black
canoe, and porpoises curved through the waters ahead. just below
the surface floated translucent jellyfish, and when the Indians
paddled close to shore Maynard could see giant starfish clinging
to the rocks, and anemones, pink and green and gold, moving in the
the barnacles were open and waved pale tentacles in search of
food. And fish! When the canoe drifted through the Narrows on the
outgoing tide Maynard could look down and see salmon lying head to
current in the deep water below the clay cliffs. The slap of fish
breaking surface sounded almost as steadily as the beat of the
wheeled overhead on steady wings, turning their smooth heads
slowly as they scanned the water for prey. When the canoe skirted
the shore, cranes flapped heavily into flight. Sometimes mallard
and coot skittered along the green surface, or a helldiver flipped
party landed and bought salmon and potatoes and mats from some
Indians who were smoking them near the beach. They camped for the
night too low that night and the tide drove them off, to spend the
night on the water. Maynard lost a skillet cover and got his gun
next day a southwest wind came up and rain fell. The Indians
raised a sail, and the dugout ran with the waves under a flat roof
of clouds that stretched from the dark islands to the dark shore.
In the rain Maynard coasted past the sandy spit where, within a
year, Seattle would be founded, and in the rain reached the
Stilquamish. The record of his exploration for coal is lost. He is
believed to have found some traces and, on his return to the upper
Sound, to have sold the pages of his journal describing the
location to another explorer.
settled in a small community on Budd Inlet, three miles north of
Tumwater. The place, now called Olympia, was then known officially
as Smither, though most people called it Smithfield, both names
honoring Levi Smith, a Presbyterian divinity student who settled
there in 1848 but lost his life when he suffered an epileptic
attack in a canoe. While Maynard was living in Seattle, Congress
awarded the town a customs house, and it became the first port of
entry on the Sound.
town prospered but not Maynard, whose money ran out. There were
not enough people on the upper Sound to support a doctor, so he
borrowed an ax and between calls on the widow Broshears he cut
wood. He kept cutting for half a year, and by the fall of 1851 he
had four hundred cords piled at tidewater. Maynard persuaded
Leonard Felker, captain of the brig Franklin Adams, to haul him
and his wood to San Francisco. There the wood brought him more
than two thousand dollars. He used the money to buy a stock of
trading goods from a wrecked ship.
returning north Maynard looked up his old friend John Weer, who
was reconverting himself to politics after serving as a colonel
during the Mexican War. Weller tried to talk Maynard into staying
in California, but the doctor protested that the situation in the
gold camps was too rowdy: in two days he had been called to treat
four gunshot victims. He would return to Puget Sound, where life
would be more orderly.
told Maynard of two other Ohioans, Henry Yesler and John Stroble,
who shared Maynard 's conviction that western Oregon had a future
and who planned to start a sawmill somewhere in the Northwest
Weller said to Maynard, "Doctor, let me advise you. You have
the timber up there that we want and must have. Give up your
profession. Get machinery and start a sawmill. By selling us
lumber you'll make a hundred dollars for every one that you may
possibly make in doctoring, and you'll soon be rich."
was right, of course, but Maynard did not have enough money to buy
machinery and he was tired of cutting trees by hand. He sailed
back on the Franklin Adams with his stock of trading goods. Going
down the Sound, the vessel passed a cluster of cabins on a spit
near the mouth of Duwamish River, a settlement which, Maynard was
told, was derisively called New York-Alki meaning "New
rented a one-room building in Olympia and opened his store. His
business methods were unorthodox, even for the frontier.
he had purchased his goods at half price, he sold them at half the
price asked by other merchants., If he was feeling particularly
good - and alcohol often made him feel particularly good - he was
inclined to give his customers presents; he offered credit.
Maynard was popular with the townsfolk but not with other
merchants, among them Mike Simmons, who felt that Maynard was not
only hell bent for bankruptcy but was a bad influence on
customers. His business rivals suggested that Maynard would
probably be happier selling his goods somewhere else.
day an Indian named Sealth (pronounced Seealth and sometimes
Seeattle), the tyee, or chief, of the tribe living at the mouth of
the Duwamish River (which was also known as the Duwamps and the
Tuwamish and, to everyone's confusion as the White), paddled up to
Olympia on a shopping trip. Sealth was a big, ugly man with
steel-gray hair hanging to his shoulders; he wore a breechcloth
and a faded blue blanket.
arrival caused some stir in the little community, for the whites
considered him one of the most important tyees in Oregon
Territory; they certainly were more impressed by Sealth than the
tribes along the Sound were of the Salish family; the Nisquallies,
the Duwamish, the Muckleshoots, the Puyallups, the Suquamish, the
Snohomish, and other groups varied in number from less than a
hundred to more than a thousand, but they all seem to have had the
same notion about the role of a chief: a chief had little
authority. He was merely a rich man with some eloquence, a man
whose opinions carried more weight than those of his fellow
wealth was hereditary, the chieftaincy often stayed in one family,
but it did not necessary go to the eldest son; the tribe might
agree on a younger son, on an uncle, on anyone who was rich, or at
least generous and wise, or at least persuasive. A tribe might
agree to have more than one chief; nearly all had one leader for
peace and another who took over during war.
appears to have been in exception to this rule; he was a peacetime
tyee, but there was a story current in his lifetime that he had
distinguished himself as a strategist in some distant campaign and
that his military genius had established his people's hegemony
over the lands at the mouth of the Duwamish, on the western shore
of Lake Washington, and on the eastern side of Bainbridge Island.
Sealth was, as the settlers put it, "an old Indian"
meaning he refused to wear "Boston," that is, American
clothing, and he would speak neither English nor the trade jargon
called Chinook; he talked in Duwamish, and anyone who wished to
speak with him either learned Duwamish or found an interpreter.
Sealth was considered to be friendly toward the whites and was on
good terms with the storekeepers in Olympia. It may have been Mike
Simmons who suggested to Sealth that he speak to Maynard about
moving his store up to the settlement of New York-Alki. Maynard
agreed. He held a hurried sale, loaded his remaining goods aboard
a scow, and, accompanied by Sealth and a squad of Duwamish
paddlers, started north.
fortymile trip took four days and three nights. Maynard and his
companions landed on the sandspit of New York-Alki late on the
afternoon of March 31, 1852.
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