The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume II, Number 2-3, Pages 22-23
Summer, 1977

The Old Cabin of Squak Valley

By Helen Follis

Helen Follis is a free lance writer and teaches history at Issaquah Junior High School.

In the 1860's when the first white settlers moved into the valley then known as Squak, they found an abandoned cabin, larger than most settlers' and sturdily constructed of hand-hewn logs and pegs. For reasons not recorded, the settlers surmised that the cabin had been built and used by trappers of the Hudson's Bay Company.

What the settlers may or may not have realized was that the cabin had probably been used as a sub-station or trading post for trappers working out of Fort Nisqually, the nearest Hudson's Bay Company "factory."

The Company had been in this part of the Oregon Country since 1821, when its Pacific Northwest headquarters were established at Fort Vancouver. Fort Nisqually was built in 1833. Other factories, as the fur posts were called, were set up at Fort Colville in eastern Washington, at Flathead House in Montana, and at Fort Victoria and Fort Langley in British Columbia.

For over one hundred years, the Company would monopolize the fur trade in North America. The Company sent men out to set up trap lines and to trade with the Indians, whom they realized were far better trappers than the white men.

In this manner the Company not only flourished in the fur business, but became allies of sorts with the Indians, kept the American trappers and settlers out, and maintained some sort of toehold on the British claim to the Oregon Country.

It was probably one or more of these Company men who built the cabin found by Issaquah's first recorded settlers. Situated strategically near one of the Indians' favorite "highways" over the Cascades, the cabin was in a perfect location for a trading post and a half-way house for trappers coming from east of the mountains. It was also not far from the southern tip of Squak Lake, as Lake Sammamish was then called, near where the Indians set up their summer camps.

With the warm weather came the migration of hundreds of Indians over the Snoqualmie Pass to this place to trade, to fish, and just relax. And others used the same "highway." That the Hudson's Bay trappers used this pass is a matter of historical fact, for it was they who, in 1855, would suggest this to Governor Isaac I. Stevens as a possible route for the proposed railroad from St. Paul. That the route was not chosen is another story.

In the 1830's white settlers began moving into the territory in larger numbers. It was becoming clear that the Americans were here to stay. As early as 1845, a period of unrest began to develop that would last for thirty years. The Indians began their last desperate attempt to retain what had been their hunting and fishing grounds.

With the Treaty of 1846 came the end of British jurisdiction in the Oregon Country. The Indians not only lost an ally, but also their business "partners" in the fur trade. They may have felt that they had been "sold out" to the Americans.

Whatever the reason, records show that in 1849 Chief Patkanim of the Snoqualmie tribe, led a raid on Fort Nisqually. It is not too difficult to imagine that he and his men traveled the "highway" past the cabin. This might have been the time and the occasion that prompted the occupant or occupants of the cabin to move elsewhere. Or it may be that our cabin dwellers chose another time to move to greener pastures. We may never know for certain.

We do know that the cabin was used by the John Adams family for a number of years after they moved into this area in the 1860's. In 1883 the Robert Wilson family bought the land and moved into the still sturdy cabin. There they lived until the cabin was moved to another location to make room for the Wilsons' new house. After that the old cabin was used as a bunk house and later for storage. A picture of it taken in 1888 when the Wilson family still lived in it, appears in an old history of the territory.

Today the site of the cabin is near the intersection of the old Renton-Issaquah road and I-90, the most heavily traveled east-west highway in Washington State. A business center has been developed nearby. Looking back one might say that the builder of the cabin had a keen sense of vision. It is still a good location for a trading post.