On the warpath in Tukwila | Tukwila's Story

Painting by Beulah Maple Norman shows the Indian attack. - Tukwila Historical Society
Painting by Beulah Maple Norman shows the Indian attack.
— image credit: Tukwila Historical Society

There has been much written about the early settlers of the Oregon Territory.  Many of us go about our daily lives without a thought to events which occurred over a century and a half ago. The area between present-day Seattle and Tacoma was originally scouted in the mid 1840s. The U.S. government passed the Oregon Land Donation Claim Act of 1850 and migration to the Oregon Territory had  begun to increase. The Duwamish River Valley is the area that many of the earliest settlers chose to make their claims and include names such as Luther Collins, Jacob and Samuel Maple, Henry Van Asselt who arrived June 22, 1851. They were followed by Joseph and Stephen Foster in the spring of 1852. The proximity to the river was vital since there were only a few trails and no roads to travel for the settlers to obtain supplies. Travel in the early days would have been by canoes purchased from the local natives. The major road-building projects came much later with funding by the government to build a Military Road and fragments of this road can still be found in South King County in Tukwila, Sea-Tac and Federal Way.

The painting being featured for this article was painted by Beulah Maple Norman (1893-1992), granddaughter of Jacob Maple, and it reflects the destruction of Samuel Maple and Henry Van Asselt’s cabins and barn on Jan. 26, 1856, during an attack by the Yakama and Klickitat Indians from Eastern Washington Territory. These men and other families along the rivers of the

White, Cedar, Green and Duwamish suffered death or destruction during the uprising.  Samuel and Henry as well as Joseph and Stephen Foster were among settlers whose lives were saved as they heeded the early warning on Jan. 26 by friendly Duwamish tribal members who came up river to let the settlers know that an attack was imminent. The destruction which occurred did not discourage the majority of pioneer settlers who remained on their land.  Some of them went to Oregon so that they could earn the money to rebuild their homes and purchase new livestock.

The “Battle of Seattle” has been well documented by our historians but there are many more stories of the attack that have been found.  For example, Eli Maple, son of Jacob Maple, age 20, who arrived here in October 1852 documented his viewpoint in a journal which gave his first-hand account of the attack.

Eli wrote that he received an earlier warning on the day before the attack from Salmon Bay Curley, a Duwamish native.  He witnessed the death of John Hanford, a  young man of only 15 years who had inadvertently walked in front of an open doorway. It is not known if he was hit by enemy or friendly fire.  There were only two pioneer deaths during this tragic event but over 45 native lives were lost.

More than 100 years after becoming a city, Tukwila is separated by  three major highways and in many ways is still very similar to the area’s pioneer beginnings as a busy intersection of travel and commerce.


Tukwila’s Story is written by Louise Jones-Brown is acting director of the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center and treasurer for the Tukwila Historical Society.  Some of the stories come from her family’s personal memories that have been passed down for over 150 years.  The painting being used as a feature for this story was painted in the 1960s by Beulah Maple Norman, one of her many cousins and is currently on display at the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center.  For hours and arrangements for a tour, please call 206/244-HIST or email:

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