Biography of Hon. Charles C. Terry

HON. CHARLES C. TERRY.- The name and labors of this gentleman fill an important part in the history of the North Pacific coast. He was not only one of the first settlers here in point of time, but has ever been foremost among those who have had the foundations of our society and business. He was born in new York State when that was itself the frontier, and received his education in his native town.

The fame of the soil and climate of the North Pacific coast had already reached the Atlantic slope. Adventurers and daring men in various parts of the country were preparing to seek their fortunes there, and among these was Mr. Terry. He joined a party of homeseekers in 1851; and their point of departure from civilization was the old site of Council Bluffs. Thence their route was up the long valley of the Platte by way of Fort Laramie; up the Sweetwater and under the shadow of Frémont’s peak; down the Bear and Snake rivers to the Columbia. From Mr. Terry’s old home it was three thousand miles; and most of the way was through an almost trackless wilderness, swarming with powerful tribes of Indians.

The journey was successfully made; and the party arrived at Portland in August,1851. While the rest of the company awaited at that place to rest and recover from the fatigue of their journey, Mr. Terry and two others made an exploration to Puget Sound. After a month’s absence in an almost trackless forest, he returned and reported favorably upon that country for permanent homes. As soon as preparations could be made, a party of twenty-one took passage on the schooner Exact, and landed at what is now Alki Point in September. The whole party camped in the forest until log cabins could be built. The first work of the settlers after building was to cut and skid to the Sound a load of piling for the brig Leonesa. This work, with its pay, was a God-send to the settlers. Without teams or anything but their axes and strong arms, they felled the great forest trees, cut them up, forced the piling by hand to the Sound and floated it to the brig.

In a small way Mr. Terry and Mr. Lowe, another of the party, commenced merchandising at the point of their landing, which they named Alki, an Indian word meaning “by and by.” This word was an indication of the faith these brave men held as to the future of that country. It was so apt and expressive that it was subsequently adopted by the territory of Washington as its motto. This mercantile business, under careful and able management, grew to importance, and was continued for six years, when Mr. Terry traded his interest in it for a land claim located on what is now a part of the city of Seattle. While merchandising he had also engaged successfully in sawmilling. With that foresight which had characterized his location of the party on the Sound, Mr. Terry saw the future of Seattle; and he bought other claims, so that finally he became one of the principal owners of the present site of that metropolis. He was an active participant in the measures that led to the organization of Washington Territory, and also shared in the dangers and hardships of the Indian war of 1855-56.

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He possessed the unbounded confidence of his fellow-citizens, and was honored by them with an election to the territorial legislature, and to the territorial legislature, and to the position of mayor of the city which he did so much to found and build. He was a natural leader of men; but he had no taste for office-holding. His influence in politics has been shown in his management of the party outside of the office. He was active in all that tended to settle and develop Washington Territory, and especially Puget Sound. He had the broadest and most comprehensive views of the future, foreseeing that the great forests, the iron and the coal, insured a manufacturing and commercial future; and his every effort was towards such a realization. In private life he was a model man. In his family he was all that was purest, gentlest and best. When his iron constitution succumbed to the pressure of mental and physical labor, and he passed from earth he left a widow, two sons and three daughters to mourn their irreparable loss. Mr. Terry was a man whose long life left nothing to extenuate, and very much to emulate.



Seattle Washington,

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

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