Editor’s note: The Tukwila Historical Society each month will share an artifact from its collection, as part of its exploration of Tukwila’s history, its story. The column is written by Louise Jones-Brown, the acting director of the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center.
Founder and first mayor of Tukwila, Joel Shomaker was a dreamer, visionary, and promoter. Born at Butler, Ky., Oct. 2, 1862, Shomaker was raised with a good education and a cultured home life. He was the great nephew of President Zachary Taylor. As a visionary, he was the reason Tukwila acquired its name.
Shomaker came to the Pacific Northwest in 1898 and originally settled in Tacoma where he published the Washington Farmer and Dairyman. He then came to Seattle and was the farm editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He arrived in the area of Garden Station in 1906 and bought a tract from C.D. Hillman. He then built a house for his wife and children. Shomaker commuted daily on the Interurban Railway into Seattle.
Shomaker began promoting the concept of incorporating the community. He soon saw the potential in the Duwamish Valley for industrial development and felt it would be advantageous for the community to establish itself as a municipality. He rallied neighbors and locals to generate community interest in incorporating.
A community vote was one thing but what about naming the new town? Shomaker had a knack for promotion and came up with a clever scheme. He held a “Name the New Town” contest to gather possible names. The winner of the contest was Katherine Sheperd for her suggestion of Tuck-Wil-La. The name was actually an old indigenous name used by the Duwamish natives meaning “Land where hazelnuts grow”.
Today Tukwila is a very different place from the time it was incorporated in 1908. Since that time there have been many who have helped shape Tukwila’s future as the city passed through a pioneer time, an agricultural time, and several years of development and transition. But the true tale of the incorporation of Tukwila occurred because Joel Shomaker was a visionary.
To obtain more information about history or to contribute historical photos, please contact the Tukwila Historical Society at (206) 244-4478 or email TukwilaHeritageCtr@TukwilaHistory.org.