The origin of the name "Steilacoom" is unclear. One story is that it comes from fur traders with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and is an adaptation of "Tail-a-Koom", the name of an Indian chief. In 1824 HBC chief factor John Work called it "Chilacoom". Another early spelling was "Chelakom".The Town of Steilacoom says it comes from the name of the Steilacoom tribe, especially their main village in the Tacoma area, located on Chambers Bay. This village was called Scht’ləqʷəm, later anglicized as Steilacoom. William Bright says the name comes from the Southern Coast Salish subgroup /č'tílqʷəbš/, anglicized as "Steilacoom".
Steilacoom was founded by Lafayette Balch, a sea captain from Maine, and officially incorporated in 1854. It is the oldest incorporated town in Washington and has 4 individual buildings and sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the oldest Catholic Church in the state and the first Protestant Church north of the Columbia River, as well as the Steilacoom Historic District, with 68 contributing properties.
Steilacoom's main source of early prosperity was the manufacture and export of lumber to San Francisco. When the United States Congress established the Washington Territory on March 2, 1853, Governor Isaac Stevens chose Steilacoom to be the seat of Pierce County.
Steilacoom was once the leading candidate to become the territorial capital and the one-time county seat, but lost its chance for dominance in the south Puget Sound region when the Northern Pacific Railroad picked rival city, Tacoma for its west coast terminus in 1873. Steilacoom has since settled into its role of suburban bedroom community.
Steilacoom had the first jail in Washington and the first sawmill. Steilacoom is located next to the City of Lakewood which is home to one of two major state run mental health facilities, Western State Hospital, on the site of what was once Fort Steilacoom. Clara Antoinette McCarty Wilt, the University of Washington's first graduate (1876), was born in Steilacoom. [source: Wikipedia]
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Data last updated: February 15, 2019 2:40 AM
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