Honoring our History: Snoqualmie Valley 101 (Part Two)

The Indian Wars of 1855 and ‘56 brought militia and five forts to the Snoqualmie. Valley. There was concern that the Snoqualmie would join forces with the Yakima and wipe out the American settlers.

Fort Alden at Meadowbrook was the most substantial local fort. It had an escape tunnel to the Snoqualmie riverbank. Fort Smalley was Tollgate Farm in North Bend. The battle never started in the Valley, and the forts were soon abandoned.

1856-1857, several Washington State Militia members returned to settle in the Valley after staying at the forts. In 1858, Jeremiah Borst came over the Cedar River trail to join his sister Mrs. Collins. He dropped into the Upper Valley and settled in Fort Alden. That same year James Entwistle settled at Tolt.

Jeremiah Borst

Arriving before official land surveys, Borst pre-empted 160 acres of land (now the Meadowbrook area of Snoqualmie) and raised onions, potatoes, rutabagas, and other vegetables.

The Homestead Act of 1862 granted 160 acres of public land to any citizen over 21 who lived on the land for five years and improved it.

Following the Homestead Act, Jeremiah Borst claimed another 160 acres of prairie land and bought 360 more, selling timothy, vegetables and seeds to other settlers, and dried apples for sale to Seattle.

He was happy to help other homesteaders and buy their property if they wanted to sell out. He slowly increased his holdings piece by piece, eventually owning over 900 acres in the Valley.

He participated in a mining company with Seattle businessmen and had interests in a valley lumber mill.

Borst and other pioneers loved the deep prairie soil and the lack of trees. Most pioneers assumed the prairies were naturally occurring, not acknowledging that they had been created and tended by the Snoqualmie People for millennia.

When cattle were driven across the pass, arriving exhausted, foot-sore and mosquito-plagued, Borst offered pastureland to allow the animals to regain weight and recover strength before the trip to Seattle. He arranged cattle drives of his own.

Buying as many hogs as possible from neighbors, Borst developed a meat-packing business. His workers spent days butchering and salting meat, then curing it in smokehouses over alder fires. The meat was wintered in the smokehouses, then packed to Fall City “when the salmon berries just begin to bloom,” and carried in a flotilla of a dozen or more canoes three days downriver to Everett and then in salt-water canoes (later by steamship) on the Sound to Seattle.

Like most early settlers, Borst married into the local community. Life was hard in the Valley without modern medicine. During his life in the Valley, Jeremiah had three Native American wives, losing two to childbirth and illness. His third wife, Kate, outlived him and christened the giant wooden steamship Snoqualmie in 1919.

Kate Kanim Borst

Like most early settlers in the Snoqualmie Valley, Borst used his marriages within the tribe to claim traditionally tended land under the homestead act. Additionally, under the homestead act law, he could and did claim more land as a married man than a single man.

The first settlers were soon followed to the upper Valley by Jeremiah Borst’s niece Lucinda and her husband Joseph Fares, who settled at Tollgate, turning Fort Smalley into their barn. Lucinda’s brother Steven Collins, his Native American wife Annie and her two daughters soon followed, settling near the Swing Rock/the Stone Quarry. During this period, the habitation of Snoqualmie Village at Tollgate seems to have ended.

Stories are told of the cows in her dairy herd, who were trained to come to her one at a time to her milking stool when she called them by name. A notable character in valley history, Lucinda was later divorced from Joseph Fares, who left the Valley. Lucinda then married John Gordon.

Lucinda Collins Fares with her cow on Tollgate

1882 Borst sold much of his land to the Hop Growers Association. The principals were Captain George Gove, Richard Jeffs and D. K. Baxter.

After selling his Meadowbrook property to the Hop Growers, Jeremiah Borst purchased the Fares and Rutherford homesteads and built a new “nice house” for his family on the farm at Tollgate.

The Valley’s first teacher, Asa Storey, was engaged to teach the Borst and other children. Borst built a second house on the Rutherford property for his nephew, Al Fisk, near where Gustin and Gardiner (now NW 8th) roads came together, near the Tollgate River crossing.

The Borst family moved briefly to Fall City in 1886, renting their Tollgate farm out, and when they returned to Tollgate, they lived in the Fisk house.

Jeremiah Borst died of typhoid in 1890, at age 59, while on a trip to Green River Hot Springs with his daughter Alice. The loss of this essential early citizen, county commissioner, postmaster and businessman must have been particularly difficult for his family and business associates. When his far-reaching “greatly involved” business affairs were settled, Kate Borst received almost nothing.

[Guest post by North Bend resident Cristy Lake: Assistant Director, Snoqualmie Valley Museum; Collections Registrar, Northwest Railway Museum; King County Landmarks Commission Chair; MA in Historical Archaeology.]

Comments are closed.


  • Living Snoqualmie