History: Part 1

How it all started

When Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1792, Captain George Vancouver was anchored in Blakely Harbor on Bainbridge Island repairing his ships, Discovery and Chatham. The Suquamish, led by Chief Kitsap, were at their nearby summer camp, later named Restoration Point by Captain Vancouver. This is the first recorded meeting between Europeans and the Suquamish Indians. In 1855, as part of the Treaty of Point Elliott signed by Chief Sealth (Seattle), the Suquamish ceded their claims to Bainbridge Island.

history1In 1841, Captain Charles Wilkes visited the island while surveying the Northwest with the US Exploring Expedition. Captain Wilkes named the island after Commodore William Bainbridge, commander of the frigate CONSTITUTION in the War of 1812. Captain Wilkes named Port Madison in honor of the US President, Port Blakely after another naval hero, and Agate Passage for an expedition artist. He also named Bill Point, Wing Point and Eagle Harbor, the latter after a Lieutenant.

An area slightly larger than the present State became the Territory of Washington on March 2, 1853. At the urging of local sawmill owners, the Territorial Legislature in 1857 created a new county, Slaughter County, from parts of King and Jefferson Counties. Following strenuous objection to the name chosen by the Legislature, the 397 residents were granted the right to choose their own name by popular vote. The county officially became Kitsap County, to honor the Suquamish chief who greeted Captain Vancouver.

The first county seat was at Port Madison on Bainbridge Island. Business was conducted from the office of Commisioner George Meigs, owner of the Port Madison sawmill. Far from today’s quiet residential community, Port Madison was a bustling place in the mid-19th century. A New England geography textbook published in 1850 described Seattle as a “flourishing milltown across Puget Sound from Port Madison.”