Biography of David Thomas Denny

DAVID THOMAS DENNY. – Mr. Denny was the first settler of Seattle, Washington. He was born in Putnam county, Indiana, on March 17, 1832, of sturdy pioneer stock, his parents having settled in Indiana as early as 1819. His father, John Denny, lived in Indiana till 1835, when he removed to Illinois, and in 1851 to Oregon. He was a volunteer in the war of 1812, and served under William Henry (Tippecanoe) Harrison at the Battle of the Thames.

David T. Denny was a lad of only nineteen years when he joined a party of emigrants with his older brother and crossed the plains. That older brother was Arthur A. Denny, now one of the most honored citizens of Seattle. Early in 1851 they started out; and David drove the four-horse team of his brother Arthur. After the usual excitement attending those early expeditions, they landed at Portland, Oregon, on August 17, 1851. They remained there one month to rest; and there David Denny with John Lowe and Lee Terry left for Puget Sound to spy out homes for the colony. They arrived at Olympia on September 22, 1851; and, taking canoes from there, they journeyed to Alki Point, so named by them because Alki means bye and bye, and that point was to be a Boston bye and bye. Here, on September 28,1851, these three men laid the foundation of the first cabin ever built by white men in King county. John Lowe then returned to Portland for the rest of the colony, and brought them back in the shooner Exact, sailed by a Captain Woodbury and another man generally known as “Cap.” The passengers of this schooner were Arthur a. Denny, C.D. Boren and William N. Bell and their families.

The winter was spent on Alki Point; but early the next year David Denny went across Elliott Bay and found what he considered a good place for a home, and reported to his brother. Soon afterwards the men made up an exploring expedition. They took a bunch of horseshoes and a clothes-line for a sounding lead, and proceeded to make the first survey of Seattle harbor. David Denny had remained at the cabin on account of having severely cut his foot. Hence it was that Arthur Denny, C.D. Boren, W.N. Bell and the others got their claims in the best places. They offered to narrow up their claims and let him in; but he was unmarried, and so insisted on going north of the Bell claim. His self-sacrifice has since proved great good fortune, as his land is now immensely valuable.

During the Indian war that raged on Puget Sound in the years of 1855 and 1856, Mr. Denny was a corporal in Company C, Captain C.C. Hewitt (afterwards chief justice), of the volunteers. His company was stationed close at hand when the Indians made a raid on Lieutenant Slaughter’s camp, killing the Lieutenant and several others. Company C rescued the survivors of the camp. Mr. Arthur Denny’s family was accompanied in the trip across the plains by his wife’s sister, Miss Louisa Bown. Before the long journey was ended, she and David had fallen in love; and on January 23, 1853, they were married. Mrs. David Denny is therefore as much of a pioneer of Puget Sound as her husband. She was born in Illinois on May 1, 1828, and was therefore but twenty-three years of age when she crossed the plains. This union was blessed with four sons and four daughters, of whom three sons and two daughters are now living.

In the early days of Seattle and King county, Mr. Denny held many positions of public trust. He was a member of the first board of trustees of the town of Seattle. He also held the following offices: Treasurer of King county for eight years, probate judge of the county for three years, and treasurer of the board of regents of the University of Washington for three years. Mr. Denny had frequently shown himself to be alive to his city’s best interests. He is now president of the Western Mill Company, operating one of the largest sawmills in Seattle; the Washington Improvement Company, which company is building canals to connect Lakes Union and Washington with tide water; the Union Water Company; vice-president of the Seattle Electric Power and Motor Company, operating the first electric railway in Washington Territory; director of the Bank of North Seattle; and senior member of thee real-estate firm of D.T. Denny & Son.


History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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