Captain George Warren Gove – Puget Sound Steamboat and Snoqualmie Hop Ranch Pioneer

Guest Post by Dave Battey

The namesake for Gove Street on Snoqualmie Ridge had quite a varied career even before moving to our Valley.

Captain Gove Comes Around the Horn to the West Coast

Cap Gove, as his friends called him, was born in 1838 in Edgecombe, Maine, to a seafaring family. He first came to Seattle in the late 1860s as captain of the bark Somosett (a three-masted sailing ship) and decided to make Seattle his home. Marrying Angeline Light in December 1862, they soon traveled to the west coast around the Horn when in 1864, he became master of the Cora Mandela and established himself on the San Francisco to China route. He is considered a pioneer mariner in the Northwest, having built and commanded the local steamers Gleaner, May Queen and Glide, some of the first steamers on Puget Sound and associated rivers. 

Photo of Captain Gove provided to the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society by the Reinig family.

Gove Builds His Fleet

Gove purchased the steamer Celilo in 1874 and then purchased the steamer, Black Diamond, from the Tacoma Mill Company, using her in the jobbing trade for a year and then built the Gem, which he ran for four years on the White River and other routes. The Gem was destroyed by fire, and he built the steamer Glide, which he ran for a year in the Skagit River trade, followed by his construction of the steamer Cascade, which he operated on the Snohomish and Snoqualmie rivers for about three seasons.

Incorporating the Snoqualmie Hop Ranch

In 1882, Cap Gove gave up his seafaring ways (while still owning Puget Sound steamships for a few more years) and entered a corporate partnership with Richard Jeffs and D. K. Baxter. Gove purchased approximately 1200 acres above the Falls from Snoqualmie Valley Pioneer Jeremiah Borst and his wife Kate Kanim Borst, who then settled in Fall City. The area was the largest of the traditionally tended prairies that the Snoqualmie Tribe had maintained before their purchase by the Snoqualmie Hop Ranch. Gove, Jeffs and Baxter planned on growing hops on the land between what would later officially, in 1889, become the towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend. Cap Gove managed the Hop Ranch for the corporation.

Steamer Cascade Loading Wood Below Fall City – Captain Gove at Wheelhouse

What are Hops?

Commercial hops are a European introduction, first grown in North America in 1629. Hops are used for one thing – the flavoring and preservation of beer. Puyallup pioneer Ezra Meeker began growing hops in 1865. By the 1880’s Ezra was a well-to-do hop rancher, selling hops on the international market and paving the way for other hop ranches to thrive in the Puget Sound Country.

Hop vines in Western Washington were trained up split-cedar poles. They die back to the ground each winter and come bounding out of the land in spring. The saleable ‘fruit’ looks like a small light-yellow Douglas fir cone and is picked and dried for sale. Once planted, it comes back year after year with no need for much care.

The ”Largest Hop Ranch in the World”

The Snoqualmie Hop Ranch was soon billed as “The Largest Hop Ranch In The World.”  The image below, an artist’s rendition of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley in 1889, helps us understand how serious this operation was and how much land it covered.

1889 Artist’s drawing of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley. The big barn was where today is the end of Meadowbrook Way, past Mount Si High. On the river, to the left of the big barn, is a barge running across the river on a cable – the precursor to today’s Meadowbrook Bridge. Cap Gove used this to get to his home (some would say mansion), above what became the Sycamore Corridor on Reinig Road. In the lower right is a steam-driven lumber mill, and the rows of trees above the mill are Jeremiah Borst’s apple trees, and the big building in the middle of the drawing is the massive Hop Ranch Hotel, built about 1885 for the growing tourist industry. The hop fields in winter are stretching toward North Bend, with the cedar hop poles pulled and stored. The train at the top of the photo is the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern, which first came to the Upper Valley the year this image was drawn.

At its peak, it took almost 2000 pickers to harvest the hops. Most of these were Native Americans from all over the Northwest, some coming from as far as the Fraser River Valley and Haida Gwaii in Canada and Alaska. Hop Ranch partner Henry Levy spent many years recruiting 1200-1500 pickers in British Columbia using the kinship network within the tribes of the region through his brother’s marriage to Emma Levy, a member of the Haida. Their camp was on the island formed by what is now the slough by the Mount Si Golf Course and encompassed the current Snoqualmie Dog Park. Picking took about two months, but many stayed for three months to participate in traditional social networking, trading and additional harvest opportunities. Many pickers accepted only silver dollars. 

Native American Hop Pickers and Hop Ranch Manger Robert Terhune

What Was Cap Gove REALLY Like?

The Snoqualmie Valley Museum’s Assistant Director, Cristy Lake, found and extracted from the Autobiography of Erastus Johnson personal comments from the 1890s to help us understand the Captain from someone who worked for him as a carpenter. “Captain Gove was a singular man, in some respects:  A rough old tar, but born to rule, and in that respect, fitted for his present position, for there were a thousand people of every possible character to be managed. I always looked up with a feeling of deep respect, if not reverence, upon the face of an old sea captain.……. Captain Gove was rough, profane, wicked, but on the whole, I liked him far better than many another I have known of polished and even religious exterior.”  We have one other look at the man in the Centennial History of the Snoqualmie Methodists (available for purchase at the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society Museum), which discusses contributors to the church by citizens who were not official members:  “The earliest example that comes to mind is that of Captain George W. Gove …… who bought an organ and seventy-two hymnals and organized a choir around 1898.”

The End of Commercial Hop Growing in Western Washington

By the end of the nineteenth century, too many entrepreneurs were growing hops – worldwide. Soon the income from selling dried hops on the world market was less than the cost of running the farm. Then a ‘hop louse’ or aphid infested the crop and added spraying costs. By 1900 the Hop Farm had been sold and was growing potatoes, and by 1904, with Arthur W. Pratt as owner, it became a significant dairy farm. Today, 460 acres of the original hop ranch are protected open space – Meadowbrook Farm Park – owned jointly by Snoqualmie and North Bend and managed by the Meadowbrook Farm Preservation Association.

Snoqualmie Hop Pickers by Darius Kinsey

Cap Gove Sells His Property

Cap Gove’s personal property was significant. He owned all of the land from the river up to what became Highland Drive. An obituary from October 6, 1924, Snoqualmie Valley Record notes:  “Remembered by many Valley residents as the owner of Monte Vista farm and the 160 acres at the present location of the Western Fuel boarding house………” Cap Gove sold his home and personal land to the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company (later Weyerhaeuser) in 1918 and moved back to Seattle. The mill built the Riverside Neighborhood of the town of Snoqualmie Falls on his property.

Cap Gove influenced other Snoqualmie pioneers. His close neighbors in Seattle included the Reinig family. He invited them to visit him in the Valley. The Reinigs were so taken with the beauty of the Valley that they purchased 120 acres of land just down the road from Captain Gove at what is now 41502 SE Reinig Road. The family moved to the Valley in June 1890 and lived in a house on the Hop Ranch while their new home and barn were being completed. The Reinig Ranch is still in the family. 

[Dave Battey, the Official Historian for the City of Snoqualmie and member of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society Board]

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  • It is so nice to read about the history of the Snoqualmie Valley that many know nothing about.
    Thank you Dave Battey & whoever helped him.
    David Kelley

  • Living Snoqualmie