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Idealizing Frontier and Pioneer Life

quiltsm1.gifThis domestic scene was photographed at Green Lake, Seattle, about 1900, and depicts a re-creation of a pioneer scene. The cabin at the right was built about 1869 by Erhard Seifried, and those are 19th-century quilts hanging out to air.

In a rather short span of years, residents of the Pacific Northwest went from living on a frontier, to idealizing it and memorializing it. In the Puget Sound country, where emigrant settlers did not come in numbers until the 1850s, it was barely a generation before "the pioneers" were celebrated in published reminiscences, obituary notices, and the creation of organizations dedicated to their memory.

Arthur Denny was one of the founders of Seattle. His niece, Emily Inez Denny, also wrote her account of pioneer Seattle in Blazing the Way.


After the arrival of the railroad, after statehood for Washington, and well into the present century, the idea of the frontier remained, and it continued to inspire and influence people. There are yet vast unpopulated areas in the Pacific Northwest, although an ever-larger percentage of our residents have lived in towns and cities. Perhaps the increased urbanism has contributed to the continued visibility of frontier and pioneer icons, as we look back at a presumed simpler, more elemental society.