The cities of Washington have diverse origins, so it’s no surprise that some of their names have interesting stories behind them. Some tell you of the people that built the city, others about the places where the first settlers came from, and even about the grand plans that their founders had for them.
These are our favorite “origin stories” for the names of seven Washington cities in King County. These are all places we know and love to keep clean, so why not get a little deeper into their history? Let’s see what these city name origins and meanings are!
The city of Kirkland, located on the northeastern shore of Lake Washington, takes its name from the British industrialist Peter Kirk (1840-1916), a man who dreamt of a big town revolving around the steel industry. Kirk was not legally able to buy land as he wasn’t an American citizen, but he acquired thousands of acres through his friendship with local businessmen. While his dream for a “ Pittsburg of the West” never came to fruition—through a combination of political and economic reasons—Kirkland never did stop growing as the years went by and Kik started parceling out his land holdings. Finally, in 1905, Kirkland was incorporated into the state of Washington.
The foundations for the city of Bothell came to be when David Bothell (1820-1905) bought 80 acres of land from Canadian lumberman George Brackett in 1885. By then, the area (which was still known as Brackett’s Landing) already had a general store, a school, and a sawmill. Mr. Bothell then constructed the Bothell Hotel and started selling out building lots, the first of which was bought by a Norwegian couple, Gerhard and Dorothea Ericksen. The former became the postmaster of the town, and when asked what they should call the post office, he casually responded, “There are so many Bothells in town, and that's a good name, so let's call it Bothell”.
While the town of Redmond has become synonymous with high technology and age-old cycling culture, its origins are rooted in a little bit of drama between families. The first settlers, Warren Perrigo and Luke McRedmond, arrived in the area in 1871. They each claimed part of the Sammamish Valley, and Perrigo built an inn, the Melrose House; Perrigo was also a literal trailblazer for many new roads, and the success of his inn turned him into the leading trader of the region. On the other hand, McRedmond had founded a village he named “Melrose” to take advantage of the inn’s popularity. The settlement grew into a town, and by 1882 when McRedmond became postmaster, he officially changed the name to Redmond, much to the chagrin of the Perrigo and causing bitterness between the families for years to come.
Woodinville, a rapidly growing suburb in King County, takes its name from the first non-Native American family who settled in the area back in 1871. Formerly the home of an offshoot of the Duwamish Tribe, who were “relocated” to a reservation after a battle in 1856, allowing settlers to get close to the Sammamish River, including the family of Ira and Susan Woodin. The Woodins built a 160-acre home across from where a small settlement sprung up along the Sammamish River, which grew and expanded around the family’s land thanks to the arrival of loggers and homesteaders. The home was turned into the town’s first post office, taking the name of the family for itself.
The land where Issaquah stands today was the centuries-long home for Native American tribes before the first settlers arrived. It is from their language that the valley and Issaquah itself take their names; Squak Valley is a corruption of the word “isquoh”, meaning the sound of water birds. Before 1899, Issaquah was called Gilman, and while there is no record of the specific reason why the town’s population would want to change the name after being incorporated, it’s easy to assume that they simply like the name of the valley so much that they wanted to adopt a version that more closely resembled the Native American original.
Perhaps the most critical name change in Washington's history, the seat of King County has a long and fascinating history, but we will focus only on the origin of its iconic name. Chief Si’ahl was a leading figure of both the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes, and he chose to be accommodating of the white settlers who were arriving at the region in the early 1800s. This attitude led him to form a friendship with “Doc” Maynard, a man who persuaded the settlers of Duwamp to adopt the name “Seattle” to show their support for the chief, allowing for more peaceful relations between the settlers and the numerous tribes around them.