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Green Lake John, Green Lake’s first white settler

What do you think? (2 Comments) October 13, 2010 at 4:59PM

Today is the 141st anniversary of the day in 1869 when Erhart Seifried, known as “Green Lake John,” filed a homestead claim on Green Lake, becoming the area’s first white settler.

The following information comes from HistoryLink.org, which very kindly licenses some of their work under a Creative Commons license.  The essay was penned by Louis Fiset in 1999:

On October 13, 1869, Erhart Seifried (1832-1899) files a claim under the Homestead Act for 131.66 timbered acres on Green Lake in the present-day (1999) north Seattle neighborhood of Green Lake. Seifried, known as Green Lake John, becomes the first white settler to occupy land on Green Lake. He arrives as an unmarried German immigrant, age 37.

From 1868 to 1873, 21 individuals filed claims to the four sections (four square miles) of Township 25 North containing Green Lake. Though not the first to file, Erhard Seifried was the first settler to lay foot on his claim.

Green Lake John

Green Lake John, as his neighbors called him, was an unmarried, 37-year-old German immigrant who came to Seattle on the heels of a brief mining career in Montana. Like many immigrants of his day, he reached the Pacific Northwest via stops along the way. Once here, he tried his hand at farming. Clearing land, building a shelter, planting an orchard, and raising crops and livestock was a lot for a man to do alone, and he soon married Eltien, also a German immigrant.

Seifried built the first cabin ever erected on the shores of Green Lake. It remained the only cabin for 10 years. By 1877 he had cleared five or six acres. He worked for Thomas Mercer, who operated a farm at the south end of Lake Union. According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of 1909, Siefried would get to his claim by following the “old telegraph road” through Woodland Park and “paddle across the lake in his canoe to the little hut in which he lived while building his home.”

“Green Lake John” and later his wife Eltien mingled with Indians who had known the area for generations. The couple cleared a dense stand of trees and planted an orchard.

Their Property on the Land

On December 14, 1887, they sold their entire holdings to the firm of Calkins, Moore, and Wood, for $15,000. The terms of sale reveal the couple’s activity on the land. Sold with the land were:

  • one bay horse, about three years old;
  • one bay mare about nine years old;
  • one farm wagon;
  • nine cows, four heifers, and one calf;
  • one bull;
  • three dozen chickens;
  • harness;
  • mowers, rakes, and plows;
  • dairy utensils,
  • cider mill;
  • all other farming implements and tools now situated upon the above described premises.

The acreage value itself was determined by its proximity to Green Lake and the Ravenna Creek outlet. Along the shoreline south of the outlet, near the present-day (1999) Albertsons grocery store, the acreage was valued at $250 per acre; to the north at $200. Value of acreage extending farther east was $150 and $50 per acre.

Sources:
Green Lake News, November 26, 1903; King County Land Records Deeds of Sale, Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue;; Cadastral survey field notes and plats for Oregon and Washington (Microfiche M-3066), University of Washington Libraries, Seattle; 1871 Territorial Census, King County, W.T.; “Offers Cabins to City Park Board,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 12, 1909, Sec. 2, p. 1.

Thank you, HistoryLink.org!

2 Responses to “Green Lake John, Green Lake’s first white settler”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Only you would come up with this historical tidbit, Amy. Great stuff.

  2. Ranger Doris says:

    Did you know there is a National Park site devoted to telling the story of the Homestead Act of 1862? To learn more about what may be the most influential piece of legislation this country has ever created go to http://www.nps.gov/home or visit Homestead National Monument of America. Located in Nebraska, the Monument includes one of the first 160 acres homestead claims but tells the story of homesteading throughout the United States. Nearly 4 million claims in 30 states were made under the Homestead Act and 1.6 million or 40 percent were successful. The Homestead Act was not repealed until 1976 and extended in Alaska until 1986. Homesteads could be claimed by “head of households” that were citizens or eligible for citizenship. New immigrants, African-Americans, women who were single, widowed or divorced all took advantage of the Homestead Act. It is estimated that as many as 93 million Americans are descendents of these homesteaders today. This is a story as big, fascinating, conflicted and contradictory as the United States itself. Learn more!