Jul 19 2016

Imagine moving to a new place and literally having to hack and chop your way through the woods with axes in order to get your car (or, in the case here, a team of oxen) to the road (in this case, river) so you can go grocery shopping, visit friends or make it to the doctor. David and Mary Ann Bothell, namesakes of Bothell, WA, did just that and more as pioneers of the Sammamish River settlement.

So when you're roaming the neighborhood playing Pokémon Go, complaining about Slovenic plagiarism, bemoaning how traffic has gotten so bad, just imagine what the Bothells endured.

On September 11, 1883, the very first passenger train of the Transcontinental Northern Pacific Rail Line pulled into the Portland station. Among its pioneering passengers were David and Mary Ann Bothell, their son David Jr., daughter Rachel and her husband John Keener. From Portland, they ferried across the Columbia River and made their way up to Seattle where their son George, a logger on Queen Anne Hill, awaited their arrival. By journey's end, the family had travelled from the plains of Iowa to the rugged Washington Territory. They settled a remote, stagnate logging site along the Sammamish River and did much to build it into a bustling community that was named in their honor.

David Cameron Bothell, born in 1820, was one of 12 children of Pennsylvania farmer and tanner George Bothell and Nancy Johnson Bothell, a native of Ireland. When David's father died tragically in 1834, the 14-year-old went to work as a carpenter and farmer to support his mother and siblings. Ten years later, David married Mary Ann Felmley, whose mother hailed from the Scottish Highlands. The following year, the couple began a family of their own and would have seven children over the course of 20 years.

David established a successful lumber operation that was interrupted by the Civil War and his joining the Pennsylvania Cavalry. After two years, he returned home with a spinal injury and challenging business conditions. David and Mary Ann moved their growing family several times over the subsequent two decades in search of better opportunities in Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.

Then in the early 1880s, Mr. and Mrs. Bothell, both now in their sixties, made the arduous journey westward to Washington State, encouraged by their son George, who had entered the booming logging trade here.

In 1884, the Bothells made a slow, five-mile trek from Lake Union to present-day downtown Bothell, then known as Brackett's Landing, intent on starting their own logging operation. With picks, shovels and brute force, they hacked a trail through the old-growth forest along the Sammamish River to allow passage for their oxen teams hauling the logging equipment.

By the following year, the Bothells had set up a short, crude tram road, with cars pulled by oxen, for transporting logs to the river. Once in the water, the logs were floated downstream to mills in Ballard and Seattle. The Bothells had also built, near present-day Main Street, a large permanent home for themselves that also served as a boardinghouse for loggers coming to work for them. The elderly Bothells became affectionately known as Grandad and Grandma Bothell. Mary Ann was known far and wide for her hospitality and cooking. On the Squak steamboat's bi-weekly trips along the Sammamish to Issaquah, the boat commonly docked near the home for passengers to enjoy a meal and a chat with Grandma Bothell.

The Bothell home quickly became the heart of the growing community. When the first child was born in Bothell in 1885, Grandad and Grandma held the christening. Later that year, the family held the first church service, an event that ultimately served as the foundation of the Bothell United Methodist Church, a congregation now well over a hundred years old. In 1886, the Bothells once again brought the townsfolk together when David and Mary Ann donated land on Main Street for the first school. The Bothell home was routinely the scene of many social events as well, including dances where locals and settlers from outlying areas congregated to kick up their heels.

Sadly, after almost a decade of hosting lodgers, the family's original homestead burned to the ground. Consequently, its destruction led them to build the Bothell Hotel in 1895. The two-story building contained four stores, four apartments and 23 hotel rooms. In 1902, Grandad and Grandma Bothell turned over its operation to their daughter, Rachel, and her husband John. With a respectable price of $5 a week for room and board, and the logging industry booming, there was seldom an empty room in the boardinghouse.

The completion of the Seattle Lakeshore & Eastern Railroad in the late 1880s brought a deluge of new settlers streaming into the area. David Bothell began selling off plots of his land to the new-arrival merchants, craftsmen and professionals who were anxious to establish shops and offices that became the original business district.

Upon the opening of the post office in 1888, Postmaster Gerhard Eriksen was given the honor of naming the village. Eriksen is quoted as saying: "There are so many Bothells in town and that's a good name, so let's call it Bothell."

Given that the Bothells' pioneering endeavors helped lay the foundation of a thriving community in the Squak Slough, it was a fitting name indeed. And the moniker has withstood the test of time, as successive generations of Bothells have continued to steer the town's progress through entrepreneurial ventures and civic leadership. They are, without doubt, Grandad and Grandma Bothell's greatest legacy.

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