An austere monument at Alki Avenue S.W. and 63rd Avenue S.W. marks the “birthplace of Seattle,” the point along the West Seattle shoreline where a group of pioneers led by Arthur Denny landed 162 years ago this week.
I used to think the Denny Party stumbled upon these lands the same way Columbus happened upon America. But I know better now. Arthur Denny had dispatched his younger brother, David, to scout the area a few months earlier.
That means the 24 men, women and children who came aboard the Schooner Exact had something to look forward to. Namely, the cabin David Denny and fellow pioneer Lee Terry were building to welcome them.
On their arrival, however, they found a big disappointment. David had fallen ill, and the cabin was unfinished – in the middle of November. No wonder “the ladys sat down on the loggs and took A Big Cry,” as later reported by a member of the party.
Though a major metropolis has blossomed along Elliott Bay since then, it’s not difficult to imagine what the pioneers had to go through that Nov. 13 of 1851. Stand for a few minutes on that beach this time of the year and you’ll feel the same chill in the air while seagulls fly through the same cloudy skies that greeted the Denny Party.
I think I would have cried too.