Dave Battey of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum was instrumental in helping name many Snoqualmie Ridge streets. He has kindly offered to share with Living Snoqualmie readers the history of some of those street names, along with other Snoqualmie history, in his monthly guest posts.
As we near Christmas, Dave explains the history behind Douglas Ave. The tree bearing the same name has a deep connection to this time as a popular Christmas tree. Thanks, Dave. Read on…
Most street names on Snoqualmie Ridge honor local Snoqualmie families. Douglas Avenue is a very notable exception – named for plant explorer David Douglas (1799-1834),famous for introducing hundreds of North American plants to the British Isles (and thus Europe) during his short life.
David never visited our Valley, but his journals and seed collections introduced our flora and Pacific Northwest geography to the rest of the world.
Later, botanists nicknamed “Douglas” fir, the dominate Western Washington evergreen tree, in his honor. Before its development, the forests covering Snoqualmie Ridge were plantations of second and third growth Douglas fir, so it is logical to name a main thoroughfare after David.
He was born in Scone Scotland in 1799, trained in botany and surveying and came to America in 1823, using Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River as his base of operations. Financed by England’s Royal Horticultural Society, David introduced over 240 Northwest plants to Europe. In his journals, historians found the very first use of the term “Cascades” to describe the mountains that are the backbone of Washington State.
David’s adventure-filled life ended at age 35 when he set sail for Hawaii to continue plant exploring, but fell into a cattle pit (trap) and was killed by a bull. Although alternate theories suggest he was killed for the money he was carrying and then placed in the pit.
Along with Douglas fir, David introduced Noble fir – our predominant farm grown Christmas tree; Sitka spruce – critical in the manufacture of pre-WWII aircraft; Grand fir – also used for Christmas trees; and Western White pine – dominant in Eastern Washington. He also introduced California poppy, red flowering current, and Sallal – a primary evergreen forest floor cover plant in Western Washington and Snoqualmie Ridge.
There is a David Douglas memorial park in Vancouver Washington and a monument to him in Hawaii. Now we have our own local tribute – Douglas Avenue in Snoqualmie.