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Robert and William Weedin, Green Lake pioneer brothers

What do you think? (7 Comments) January 21, 2011 at 11:42AM

This piece of Green Lake history comes to us from Glenn Hanbey.

Glenn, a recently retired Air Force Pilot now working for Boeing and living in the Auburn area, is the great, great grandson of Green Lake pioneer Robert Weedin. Glenn has been doing genealogical research on his Weedin roots for many years. He is currently researching the Weedin brothers’ participation in the bloody guerrilla warfare that took place in Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War.

William and Robert Weedin, Green Lake Pioneers. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 23, 1965.


The stories of Robert and William Weedin are typical of the early pioneers who settled in the Northwest. Though they are typical, that makes them no less extraordinary as seen through the lens of our present day existence. Both brothers fought and survived one of the most vicious guerrilla wars in US history, cast their first vote for Abraham Lincoln, married two sisters and moved their families across the US to become some of the first settlers in the wilderness area north of the burgeoning town of Seattle, Washington. Once established in their new home they were instrumental in building the foundations of a thriving new community. Though extremely fascinating for the great, great grandson of one of these pioneers, I believe their story is no less compelling for others as well.

Early Years

Both Robert and William Weedin were born in central Missouri, just south of the present day I-70 highway that runs East of St Louis to Kansas City. Robert was born on September 22, 1842 in Pettis County, Missouri and William Luther Weedin was born on February 20, 1845 in neighboring Cooper County Missouri. They were the second and third children of seven born to Mathew and Margaret Weedin. Their father was born in 1818, and by 1850 was farming in Saline County, Missouri. By 1860, Mathew Weedin had left Saline County and was farming in Pettis County Missouri. Robert and William’s Grandfather, Benjamin Weedin Sr., had come West from East Greenwich, Kent, Rhode Island, where he was born on August 8th, 1764. Both Robert and William worked with their father on the family farm.

The Weedins were part of the broad yeoman class of farmers that was prevalent in Missouri prior to the Civil War where 90 percent of Missourians lived on farms or in villages of less than 2,000 people. Statistically, the average Missourian was a Methodist from Kentucky who owned a 215-acre general family farm. In 1860, corn and hogs were the main staple of the family farm. Markets for Missouri products opened up to the Eastern states and Europe because of the railroad that had recently been extended West beyond St. Louis.

In April, 1861, William and Robert were only teenagers working on their father’s farm when the great Civil War began. Missouri was a border state at the time, comprised of slave-owning Southern sympathizers in the East and the Union non slave-owning population in most of the rest of the state. Although it was far enough West to be excluded from the great battles raging in the East, Missouri became the backdrop for “the most widespread, longest-lived, and most destructive guerilla war in the Civil War.” Both Robert and William initially joined the Home Guards and eventually would serve with distinction in the Union Army, Company “D,” 7th Regiment Missouri State Militia Volunteer Calvary. Both would serve until the end of the war in 1865 and then would be honorably discharged.

William Weedin. Courtesy of Glenn Hanbey.

During and after the war, Robert and William married two sisters, Elizabeth and Susan Brownfield, who lived near them as children and grew up with them in the same neighborhood. Robert married Elizabeth Jane Brownfield on Jun 28, 1863 near Otterville, in Cooper County Missouri with Reverend William Fergusan officiating. William was not present at the wedding, presumably because he was still with his unit fighting at the time. Robert Weedin and Elizabeth Jane Brownfield would eventually have ten children.

Robert and Elizabeth Brownfield Weedin. Courtesy of Glenn Hanbey.

After his discharge from the Union Army, William married Susan Martha Brownfield, September 16, 1866 in Bates County Missouri. The ceremony was conducted by Doctor Beynard. William and Susan would eventually have four children.

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Green Lake Pioneers

After the war, William lived in Bates County Missouri until 1873, when he moved to the Seattle area to join his brother Robert. Robert had come West before his brother, travelling by covered wagon with his family.  In 1873, William crossed the continent on one of the first trips made by the recently completed Central Pacific Railroad, and stopped at San Francisco for a few days. Later in the summer of that same year he came to Seattle on a sailing ship, and purchased a tract of land on Sixth Avenue between Pike and Union Streets in Seattle. Not satisfied with “city life,” he soon afterwards homesteaded a tract of 160 acres in the Green Lake-Ravenna District in north central Seattle.

Green Lake still surrounded by virgin forest around 1893. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA0517.

Green Lake was a freshwater, glacial lake, its basin having been dug 50,000 years ago by the Vashon glacier, which also created Lake Washington and Lake Union. Green Lake lacked both surface water inflows and outflows being fed only by rainfall and storm runoff. It once drained into Lake Washington via Ravenna Creek, but in 1911 the water level was lowered to create parkland, causing the creek to dry up between Green Lake and Cowen Park. The lake was named by David Phillips, who surveyed the area in September 1855 for the United States Surveyor General. His first field log notes referred to it as “Lake Green” because even in its natural state the lake is prone to algae blooms, giving it a green tint. Phillip’s late summer visit coincided with the appearance of the seasonal algae blooms and may explain the name they entered on the survey map.

University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, TEP0033

Green lake from Woodland Park, December 1, 1891. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, TEP0033.

The Green Lake neighborhood was contained within four of the one square mile sections surveyed by Phillips, with the Lake occupying centerfold significance. The lake was bounded on the west by the east slope of Phinney Ridge, on the north by N 85 Street, on the east by the I-5 corridor, and with a southern extension to N 50th Street.

Green Lake John

On October 13, 1869, Erhart Seifried, a 37 year old bachelor German immigrant, paddled across the Lake to the northeast shore and sank his shovel into a 132-acre homestead claim, becoming the first white settler in the area. He filed a claim under the Homestead Act for 131.66 timbered acres on Green Lake. The Homestead Act of 1862 was passed by the U.S. Congress and provided for the transfer of 160 acres of unoccupied public land to each homesteader on payment of a nominal fee after five years of residence; land could also be acquired after six months of residence at $1.25 an acre. Seifried eventually became known as “Green Lake John.” He and later his wife Eltien, also a German immigrant, mingled with Indians who had known the area for generations. Seifried 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 many 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.

Original cabin of Erhart Seifried, know as Green Lake John, built on the North shore of Green Lake in 1870. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA0051.

Seifried built the first cabin ever erected on the shores of Green Lake. It remained the only cabin for 10 years. He and his wife lived for several years in the original log cabin before building a larger log home in front of the old one. The little log cabin was then used for a milk house. The Seifried homestead extended from what is now East Sixty-fifth street, north one half mile and extending west from tenth Avenue northeast one-half mile, thus placing about forty acres of his place in the lake.

Hanging out quilts around 1900, picture shows Green Lake John’s original cabin and the larger log home he later built. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA0055.

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.” The old telegraph road ran from the harbor over Queen Anne Hill, through Ross and Fremont and along the west and north sides of what is now Woodland Park and then passing northward to Snohomish. Mr. Siefried moved his household goods by wagon to a point somewhere near where the grand stand in Woodland Park is now located, and carried them from there over a trail that he had made to the shore of the lake. Here they were loaded into a canoe and taken to the little log cabin he had built. On December 14, 1887, they sold their entire holdings to the firm of Calkins, Moore, and Wood, for $15,000.

The acreage value itself was determined by its proximity to Green Lake and the Ravenna Creek outlet. Along the shoreline south of the outlet, 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.

Early Residents

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 Seigfried was the first settler to lay foot on his claim.

In 1877, a man by the name of Josiah Payne filed on the quarter section of land lying south of East Sixty-fifth street and extending three-quarters of a mile east from Fern Hill Station, and half a mile south between Fifth avenue Northeast. Mr. Payne built a small log cabin on the shore of the lake near Fern Hill Station, but never lived there for any length of time. However, he cleared a small piece of land near his cabin and planted a few fruit trees.

Mr. Payne never took steps to improve on his homestead and in the year 1877 sold his relinquishment to Robert Weedin, who built a cabin on the spot. On March 17, Robert moved his family and belongings to his new home. During the summer of the same year there was a wagon road constructed from the Seigfried place around the south end of the lake and entering the old telegraph road near where the B. F. Day school house once stood. As soon as this road was completed, there was another one made from near the corner of East Sixty-Fifth Street and Latona Avenue to the Weedin cabin. These were the first roads that were constructed at Green Lake and they afforded the only means of communication with Seattle for many years.

Elizabeth Weedin feeding turkeys on the Weedin homestead around 1900. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA0058.

The forest around Green Lake was filled with all kinds of animals, from the red squirrel to the black bear and cougar. Every family had a small arsenal for procuring meat for the household and protecting the domestic animals from predators. The pioneers were fond of telling of shooting bear and deer while standing in their own doorways.

The Weedin School

By 1878, several families with children were now living around the lake. The parents met together and formed School District No.25.  They then built a simple log cabin schoolhouse at what is now East 56th Street and 25th Avenue N.E, near where the present Ravenna Church stands.

The district included all the territory north of Lake Union for about four miles and extending from Lake Washington on the East to the West line of Woodland Park. The children had to walk many miles through the almost unbroken forests and were often frightened by wild beasts.

In the fall of 1879, the crude door swung open before the first young students. The school was known at the time as the “Weedin School,” presumably in recognition of Robert and William’s involvement in the building of the school and the fact that 7 of the 11 initial students were from the Weedin family. Viola Kenyon, the first teacher, welcomed them. The 11 pupils came from four homes – five from the Robert Weedin family, and two each from the William Weedin, Thomas Emerson, and Osburn Merritt families. Joseph Anderson, who taught there in 1883-84, recalled years later that the school was reached by a road which ran through the timber and swamps around the west side of Lake Union. This first log cabin school became a private residence in 1889 and was destroyed by fire in 1895.

It was around this time, in 1888, that the history of Green Lake as a town begins. Mr. William D. Wood (later to become Judge Wood) purchased Green Lake John’s homestead and began platting it for a town site.

Green Lake School

In 1889, the school was moved from the old log cabin at Ravenna to a private house about half way between Green Lake and Ravenna, and remained there for one year. Then there was a school house built on the property owned by Mr. Samuel Raynor, where school was held for one term.

In 1891, William Wood offered the school district ten 150 by 215 foot lots in Block 99 of the Woodlawn addition to Green Lake and a two-room schoolhouse was built on the property. About that time, the city limits of Seattle were extended with five schools in the annexed area, Green Lake, Fremont, Latona, Salmon Bay, and Ross Schools, became part of the Seattle District. School Superintendent Frank Barnard reported that the property on which Green Lake School stood was free and clear, having been donated by Wood, and that a $1,400 building had been built on the site. School opened in the new building on schedule in September, 1891, with Car­rie Bigham as the only teacher.

Green Lake two room schoolhouse around 1897. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA1439.

In the 1892 report to the president of the school board W. H. Hughes, it was stated that the population of the city had increased from 9,685 in 1887 to 53,787 in 1891. However, with four school buildings newly-opened, all parts of the city were prepared to handle the increased number of stu­dents except for Green Lake and Fremont, he said. The report showed 36 pupils in attendance at Green Lake and only one of the rooms being used. In 1893, how­ever, the enrollment jumped to 56 and another teacher was added to teach in the second room.

In August of 1893 Robert Weedin asked the board to add a third room to the Green Lake School. Some pupils who should be attend­ing at Green Lake were made to walk three miles to the Fremont School, he complained. However, it was not until 1898 that more space was made avail­able with two more rooms were being added.

In 1898, the two-room building was moved to the southeastern corner of the grounds and two more rooms were added. At this time, George W. DeBolt was princi­pal and teacher of grades seven and eight. In the other three rooms were Miss Edith Johnson, M. E. Pike, and Miss Lou War­ren.

The number of students continued to grow, making it necessary to establish annexes. During 1901–02, the main schoolhouse held grades 3–8. Grades 1–4 were housed at the first Green Lake Annex located at Ravenna Boulevard and N 68th Street. Three classes for grades 2-5 were held at a second annex in the old I.O.O.F. Hall in back of the Green Lake Bank.

With their children scattered at three locations, residents petitioned the school board for a new school, and a new Green Lake School was constructed on the school property. It was the first of 19 woodframe school buildings based a model plan designed by the district architect, James Stephen. During 1902–03, its first year of operation, the school served 570 students in grades 1 through 8 with 14 teachers. A kindergarten class was added the following year.

New Green Lake School completed in 1902. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, CUR316.

The schools of the time were also important gathering places for activities.  The school was used for a weekly Sunday school and as often as possible a preacher was secured to “preach to the heathen” as one of the pioneers put it. The school was also used for social gatherings as people came from different ranches where all the people for miles around gathered and enjoyed themselves.

There was a literary and debating society organized at the school house and it also became the sight of what became the oldest fraternal organization at Green Lake.

Founding of I.O.G.T. Lodge No. 200

In April, 1893, Robert and William Weedin were two of the 13 charter members of Green Lake Lodge No. 200 of the Independent Order of Good Templars or I.O.G.T. The I.O.G.T. was founded in 1850, in Utica, New York. It originated as one of a number of fraternal organizations for temperance or total abstinence founded in the 19th century and had a structure modeled on Freemasonry, using similar ritual and regalia. Unlike many, however, it admitted men and women equally and also made no distinction by race. The motto of the organization was “Faith, Hope and Charity”.

I.O.G.T Hall that was used as a school annex. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA1456.

After first meeting in the old school house on the hill, the Lodge took up temporary quarters in the private house of Mr. Hill. Finally, Judge William Wood and August Weinhardt each donated a lot, and through the efforts of Mr. Weedin, Mr. Crocker and Mr. Denny, a large and substantial two story building was erected known as the I.O.G.T. Hall. The upper story was used as a meeting place of the lodge and other organizations, and the lower part was rented for various purposes. By 1903, the lodge had membership of 122.

The Lodge, like the school, also became an important place for social gatherings, furnishing an opportunity for the young people of the community once a week to spend a pleasant social evening together.

The Green Lake area continued to boom, due in part to Seattle’s strategic location during the Alaska gold rush. The town was growing so rapidly that a saw mill was built in the neighborhood to furnish building material. A mill of about 20,000 feet daily capacity was erected (where Fletcher’s feed store once stood), and did a flourishing business for about two years, when it was moved to another location. In 1890 the electric road from the city of Green Lake was completed, and the first service inaugurated. It was during the same year that by a vote of the people of Green Lake, the community was formerly annexed to the city of Seattle.

New Seattle Trolley on the Green Lake Line around 1891. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA0610.

Moving On

In 1884, William Weedin sold his Green Lake farm and moved to Whidbey Island, where he lived until his death on March 11, 1930. His home was one of many pioneer homes on Whidbey Island and was built in Bayview on the Southern part of the Island in 1890. The lumber for the house was carried in on sailing ships. His son Herbert Weedin and his family occupied the home after his death and operated a dairy farm on the seventy acres his father developed.

William Weedin on the porch of his Whidbey Island home built in 1890. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, WAS1230.

William cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln for President, and was one of the four members of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) living on Whidbey Island.

In 1888, Robert Weedin sold 40 acres of his homestead to the real estate firm of Crawford and Canover. When Robert and Elizabeth came to the real estate office to close the deal, Elizabeth took Robert off into a corner and after a prolonged conversation, Robert announced that in Missouri, where is wife came from, the wife always was given a new dress when she signed a deed. Mrs. Weedin was given $50 for the new dress by the real estate company and the land was platted as Day’s Acre Gardens, named for Mr. John S. Day, who had an interest in the purchase.

Elizabeth Jane Brownfield Weedin. Courtesy of Glenn Hanbey.

Robert was a charter member of the Green Lake G.A.R., who conducted his funeral on March 22, 1910.

In one of the tributes to the Weedin brothers that was published shortly after the death of Robert, the author said that they belonged to “that marvelous race of men who led the vanguard and blazed the trail to Washington’s greatness.” I think that just about says it all.

7 Responses to “Robert and William Weedin, Green Lake pioneer brothers”

  1. Soozietrav says:

    What a fascinating article; I love reading about Greenlake history. AS I was reading I was thinking that there should be plaques commemorating the various sites mentioned eg. Greenlake John’s cabin, the first schoolhouse, etc. It’s too bad Seattle doesn’t do this, it would be so interesting to see the actual locations as you wander about the area. Has this ever been considered?

  2. Jpaur says:

    Great History! Fantastic pictures. Thank you so much for posting this very enjoyable and informative read.

  3. Rob Ketcherside says:

    I love it, thank you! Details like the dispersal of their land by the real estate company as Day’s Acre Garden are wonderful.

    Does Mr. Hayden know who William Weedin sold his farm to in 1884?

  4. Eponabri says:

    I’m so glad you post local history here. It’s one of my many interests. I grew up around Greenlake and I wish I still lived close enough visit. This site allows me to go home again.

    Thanks!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Eponabri! Really appreciate it. I hope you’re able to visit some day soon. – Amy

  5. Nellie977 says:

    What a great article. I am a descendant of John Finis Weedin and am wondering if he is a brother or son of either Robert or William? I am extremely interested by family lineage and truly appreciate these articles.