Editor’s note: Carol Neal Bruce, the granddaughter of Clara Ray and great-granddaughter of TK and Lucretia Ray, presented this story at the dedication of Duwamish Gardens Park, 11269 East Marginal Way S. in Tukwila, on May 13. TK and Lucretia Ray’s farmhouse was built on the site in the 1880s. Bruce lives in Alaska.
By Carol Neal Bruce
Thomas K. Ray was born in 1852, in Sioux City, Iowa. When he was 24 years old, his parents and siblings journeyed west by wagon train to the Territory of Washington with TK settling in the Duwamish Valley around 1880.
Lucretia Julian, born 1862 in Des Moines, Iowa, moved with her parents, Jacob and Rebecca Wise Julian, to Washington Territory in 1874 where Jacob purchased 68 farmland acres on the Duwamish River. Eventually Jacob sold that acreage and purchased a 140-acre farm in the same locality. Jacob was a member of the Washington Territorial Legislature in 1888 and 1889 – the time the federal government was petitioned to grant the statehood.
TK married Lucretia in 1880 at the Duwamish residence of the bride’s father. TK and Lucretia purchased a 10-acre property on the Duwamish River in 1881 or 1882, and TK began scrubbing out stumps from this land, eventually clearing the entire place. He also rented 400 acres of adjoining land. On the Duwamish property, TK cultivated a thriving commercial market garden and orchard which supported the family. He was very successful with this farmstead – growing both fruit and vegetables in the fertile river bottom soil.
TK added outbuildings and a barn to store equipment needed to run the farmstead, shelter chickens, cattle and even a show horse named Katy that his eldest daughter performed on around the state. Eventually, the commercial ferry service on the river ended so, from this farmstead property, the Rays provided ferry service for their neighbors living on the south side of the river as well as travelers passing by. The property was further enhanced in 1905 when TK secured easement rights for the use of water from a spring on the property, sufficient to supply his house and barn for the livestock.
TK and Lucretia are credited with building the 1882 farmhouse which was designed to have several of the main floor rooms large enough for parties. Throughout their time on the property, the brightly lit house, with a collection of teams and wagons outside, resounded into the wee hours of morning with the strains of fiddle music, singing and merriment as parties, dances, weddings and christenings were celebrated. Neighbors up and down the river put on their Sunday best and paddled, walked or rode for an hour or more to join the fun. The Rays had a welcoming home atmosphere for all townsfolk and provided a community gathering place and much needed social levity in a period when life could be difficult.
While living in Duwamish, the Rays had seven children – six of them born upstairs in the home. Their children attended grade and high school and worked on the farm and marketing business until adulthood. Money from the business enabled three girls to continue their education, and they were in the first graduating class of registered nurses at Providence Hospital. Another daughter attended business school in Seattle, and the Rays’ son followed in his father’s footsteps. TK’s subsequent farm in Auburn is owned today by his grandchildren.
The Duwamish Gardens Park land is a place to honor the heritage of native, pioneer and immigrant people. The Rays changed and shaped the land, but it was first the Indians who invited the pioneers to this beautiful river and valley. The Duwamish River was the transportation highway until bridges could be built. In the late summer, large parties of Indians from Vancouver Island traveled up the Duwamish to the White River and Puyallup Valley hop fields routinely camping in a thicket of trees directly across the river from the Ray house. TK’s kindness and understanding of the Indians passing through should be commended. The Ray children rowed across the river to visit with the Indians and sell them apples. According to family stories, there existed distrust between town folk and the Indians. TK and Lucretia allowed and encouraged their children to interact and establish a bond where adults could not.
Following the tragic death of a daughter, the Ray family made the hard decision to lease their farm and relocate to Auburn. Around 1915, the house was bought by Joseph and Teresa Carrossino, Italian immigrants.